Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Broken Borders, Broken Promises

On May 11, 2013, along with several other conservative and libertarian citizen-journalists, my wife and I were invited to lunch by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. We attended knowing that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The cost of admission was to have a "visit" with Mr. Staples. That was Mr. Staples exact word for the informal speech and press conference, "visit".

In addition to being well fed, lubricated with a pint of Shiner (or a glass of red wine, in my wife's case), and an autographed copy of Mr. Staples book, Broken Borders, Broken Promises, we also were entertained with stories and little-known facts about Texas and her border with Mexico. Todd reminded me of some of the collateral effects of current border security and immigration policies. He also opened my eyes to additional collateral effects.

The "visit" was just a tease. Mr. Staples's book is a "must read".

Today, immigration reform is among the pressing issues discussed at the national level. At state levels, though, many states and cities pay the problems little mind or attention. What citizens of most states hear is whining about jobs, complaining about illegals sucking up US Taxpayer dollars by fraudulently receiving food and housing subsidies, and other "not my business" minutia. Citizens of border states, particularly those on the Southern border, see other problems. This book will open the eyes of every voting-age American to the destructive effects of ineffective border security and an over-burdensome immigration policy. It affects each and every American.

Todd makes that abundantly clear. 

"My goal is to provide adequate protection to the men and women who grow the food and fiber upon which our state, country, and the world depend.  These land stewards demand and deserve relief from the terror inflicted by the drug cartel members, and this reprieve can only [sic] come in the context of broader reform  that ensures the border is secure and legal movement along our southern border is prioritized" ~Todd Staples, Preface to Broken Borders, Broken Promises

Many may wonder what being an Agriculture Commissioner in Texas has to do with immigration and border security. Mr. Staples's book explains with surprising detail after surprising detail.

Texas is home to the United States' largest supply of beef. Due to the violence on the border, infected beef from Mexico end up intermingling with US-based herds. This affects our country's food supply. It affects the prices of food. It affects the availability of the food.

Texas isn't just a beef producer. The state also produces cotton used in making clothing, such as the jeans you are probably wearing. The insecure border affects cotton production. Cartels and human traffickers destroy the crops and chase ranchers/farmers off of their land. They set fires that burn the crops. They bring boll weevils that infect and kill the crops.

Texas also produces strawberries. The Poteet, TX Strawberry Festival is famous. So are the berries, which tend to be huge. Texas grows citrus trees such as lemons, grapefruit, and oranges. While perhaps not as famous as Florida or California's crops, they are still a necessary part of the nation's food supply.

The list goes on.

The three-part interdependent problem needs a solution.

The first problem that must be addressed is the insecure, porous border. Having lived near the border in Arizona, I have witnessed, directly, the effects of poor national security. Robert Krentz, a local rancher, was assassinated by a drug cartel. This affected the entirety of Cochise County, AZ. It is but one story that illustrates an ongoing epidemic of violence. The drug cartels, sex slavers, and other smugglers want to push law-abiding landowners off of their land.

Among the fires set along the border in 2011 was the Monument Fire. It was set just south of the border and quickly destroyed thousands upon thousands of acres of National Forest and ranch land. It was set by one of these criminal organizations.

Near the border in Texas,  ranchers are kidnapped or murdered in acts meant to terrorize other ranchers into ceding their property to these criminals.

In Broken Borders, Broken Promises, Todd Staples points to the website Protect Your Texas Borders. The site contains videos and personal stories about the plight of ranchers, businessmen, and landowners along the border. The examples are exhaustive.

The proof is more than evident. The border fences are not sufficient. In many cases, they extend only a few miles beyond the limits of cities, leaving rural areas unprotected. Border Patrol agents are undermanned and under-equipped. Federal Laws limit what state and local law enforcement personnel and individual, law-abiding citizens are allowed to do in order to protect themselves, their families and their land.

On the site is a presentation (available at this link). One thing most people fail to realize is that the criminals do not stop at the border. They infiltrate the whole of the US. And drug smugglers are not the only ones in the group. The cartels network with terrorist groups such as Al Q'aeda and assist in sneaking these enemies of the US into our country. They also assist in abducting our kids to be sold as sex slaves on the black market. 

The second problem is one concerning the supply of labor. Yes, there are jobs here in the US that your average US citizen isn't willing to perform. Migrant and immigrant laborers from Mexico make a better wage in the US than back home. We have ranches that cannot get their crops harvested in time to get to market without them. The work visa program needs to be streamlined. These workers don't seek to immigrate here. They just want to work for a week then go home to their families.

This is indicative of the whole immigration and visa process. It has become bogged down with bureaucracy and red tape. There are some people who come to the States on immigration visas. Many of them begin the process immediately. There are certain gateways and time-frames. Even doing the right thing, the visas usually expire before the process can be completed. In far too many cases, the immigrant is not aware of the visa's expiration. They become "illegal" despite that the fact they were doing the right thing.

Immigration reform should not include amnesty for those who enter illegally. However, for those who wish to immigrate legally, the process needs reform. Our nation is built on immigrants. Legal immigration is a necessary cornerstone to our national values and industry. Many small businesses and successful companies were started by legal immigrants who industriously pursued the American Dream.

I know several immigrants quite well. They are great people that anybody would be honored to meet. Two of them worked as interpreters for the US Army in Iraq. One of them is, now, a US Soldier, already a patriot and a great American, even though he has yet to be naturalized. Another is working as a security guard, paying taxes, buying groceries, and living in the Great Republic of Texas. If somebody would be dumb enough to ask if I'd put my life in their hands, the answer is "I already have. I trust them, with no reservations." We, the USA, are lucky to have them.

The third part of the problem deals with those illegal immigrants already in the US. Amnesty doesn't work. It has been tried several times in the past and failed every time. All it does is invite more people to break the law expecting impunity. Those not guilty of any other crimes should be presented with a fair and just path towards legal residency, but not full citizenship. Those guilty of other crimes such as fraud, identity theft, larceny, trespassing, murder, etc., to include higher misdemeanors and all felonies should be deported. However, no plan for this demographic will work until the border is secured and the legal immigration process is reformed.

Todd Staples addresses all of the above in his book. Todd also addresses many of the counter-arguments. He has been called to defend the Texas policies regarding immigration and border security. He battles emotion-based rhetoric with facts and data. Those facts and data are bolstered by the personal, human touch of the stories he recounts from Texans who live near the border. The picture Mr. Staples paints in Broken Borders, Broken Promises is one identifying problems that need to be solved, and one of some solutions that are working already. Agree or disagree with his stance or policies, the book grants vital insight into the issues.