OPINION: Guest writer

OPINION | BOYD WARD: On the border

Crisis demands different thinking


The old and much hackneyed cliché--"What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"--well, the way our government is handling the border problems is a perfect example of this.

There is no doubt we have a huge crisis at our southern border. The numbers of migrants attempting enter our country is unprecedented in magnitude. The current allocation of manpower resources is simply overwhelmed, and more migrants keep coming. We've tried building walls and fences. They fall in high winds or get scaled by $10 ladders. In fact, I saw one wall breached by simply stacking plastic milk carton cases in stair-step fashion.

Walls don't work unless they are manned 24/7 by vigilant forces. Even then, people will find a way under, around, through or over them. Just ask the former East German border guards or study the efforts at the Great Wall of China to keep out barbarians, or the same approach as Hadrian's Wall in Britain by the Romans. This "crisis" needs new and innovative strategies.

We've tried supplementing the Border Patrol with National Guardsmen. The Guard troops are not really trained for this type of intervention. Another failed strategy. We've also tried beefing up the Border Patrol, but can't find enough willing recruits for the salaries they are being offered. They quit almost as fast as they are hired. We've upgraded the technology, using drones and robots and electronic security measures, but without saturation, there is simply too much real estate to cover.

It seems all these tactics are failing or meeting with only marginal success. Like most complex problems there is no quick fix or straightforward solution. Despite recent bipartisan efforts, the border crisis remains a political football that keeps being punted back to the other team. Congress has been willing to spend billions of dollars on Ukraine and Israel but won't commit the funds necessary to fix this huge problem.

Of course, just throwing money at the border will not accomplish much. There must be highly coordinated multiple strategies that address the following obstacles. Here's my working list:

Address the legal bottlenecks to triaging the migrants. Some have a legitimate claim, under current U.S. law, to attain sanctuary within our borders. Many do not. Increase the number of legal aides, magistrates, attorneys, and paper processors tenfold and we might unjam this bottleneck. Hire arbitrators instead of judges. Rent some cruise ships and send the non-qualifiers home.

Build out villages with temporary housing, cafeterias, and provide adequate logistical support so that we can humanely house these masses of people while processing them. We have years of experience with this process, having built huge bases for our military in faraway lands.

Find jobs for those who qualify for Green Cards or temporary residency. Construction contractors, landscapers and farmers will line up. Most of these migrants are used to hard manual labor and will make good employees. I know this because a bunch of them built my house. Transportation to job sites can be provided, if not from private sources, then it would be a bargain for good old Uncle Sam, or perhaps that ornery governor in Texas.

Step up the diplomatic and economic pressure on Mexico. There is no reason we should just roll over and let Mexico not enforce its own policies about border protection in its south.

Address the root causes of this migration. Much of it is caused by the drug cartels and the violence/corruption they create. Decriminalization of drugs in the U.S. won't work. The drugs themselves must be legalized so that people don't have to buy them from illegal sources. Dry up the drug money and the cartels will evaporate. Legal, safe narcotics can be dispensed, and drug treatment programs can be funded. (Think of the billions of dollars saved from defunding the Drug Enforcement Administration.) Allocate the tax revenue to pay for treatment. Alcohol is legal and we have millions of functional alcoholics in this country. Sure, they cause problems, but nothing like illegal drug users. The "War on Drugs" has been a massive and expensive failure. It's time we admitted it.

Improve pay, hiring processes, and training of border patrol personnel. Increase the modern surveillance technology as much as possible.

Identify advocates/advisers within the population of migrants who can assist us with translation and support services and put them to work. We were successful obtaining advisers using this approach in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Of course, I'm just spitballing here. Smarter people than me can find other options for the border problems.

But for Pete's sake, let's try out some new ideas. Some may fail. In my experience, improvement cannot come without risk. And with risk, failure sometimes occurs, but also inspires the creation of success.


Boyd Ward, who lives in Mayflower, is a novelist and author of the blog A Yellowdog Takes Aim.


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