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Congressman Adrian Smith

Representing the 3rd District of Nebraska

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Securing Our Borders

January 11, 2019
Column

Our borders reflect the history, geography, and sovereignty of our nation. We monitor and defend them for a number of reasons, including the protection of American citizens from illegal drugs and individuals who would do us harm. The United States is a nation of laws, applied broadly and evenly, with no person outside their reach. If any of us break the law, we face consequences. Our society and legal system rely on these consequences to discourage widespread crime.

To be clear, securing our border does not mean restricting access via legal ports of entry. Likewise, it should not signal increased American isolationism, reduction of trade with our neighbors, or limitations placed on legal immigration. To the contrary, it is indicative of the right way – and the wrong way – to come to America. Allowing virtually unabated illegal traffic across our borders flies in the face of everything we stand for.

We have a proud tradition of immigration in the United States – my great grandparents immigrated through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. They wanted to live in a secure, peaceful, and prosperous country whose laws protected the rights of the individual. Allowing people to circumvent the legal immigration process dishonors the memory of so many Americans who came here via legal means and is simply unfair to those waiting in line to immigrate legally.

Securing our borders, whether through the construction of a wall along the whole or part of our border, the use of advanced technology such as surveillance drones, or the deployment of additional border patrol agents is necessary to maintain respect for our laws. The border between the United States and Mexico stretches 1,951 miles with roughly 650 miles of it reinforced by permanent border fencing.

In 2018 alone, Customs and Border Patrol apprehended 396,579 individuals attempting to cross our southern border between legal ports of entry. Homeland Security estimates our ability to stop illegal entry at 50 percent, meaning as many as 400,000 people entered our country and we have no record of who they are, how long they will stay, or what their intentions are in the United States.

In addition to the national security risk, open stretches of border encourage gangs and human traffickers to exploit potential migrants, charging thousands of dollars to guide them dangerously unprepared across remote stretches of the border. Securing our southern border would make it significantly harder for human traffickers and drug smugglers to cross into the United States, potentially saving thousands of lives while also increasing our ability to detect and deter threats to our national security.

A government shutdown is not good for the country, nor is it the means by which I would prefer to make a stand for border security. However, the president has made his position clear: he will not sign a funding bill to reopen the government without meaningful improvements to border security. The United States is a compassionate nation, but it is also a fair and just nation. It is not only our right, but also our responsibility, to enforce our laws and secure our borders.