It’s been nearly 100 years since poet Robert Frost wrote “Good fences make good neighbors.” The New Englander’s meditation on the value of respect for home and property as a prerequisite for an orderly society was common sense. But what was reasonable then and still is for most Americans today doesn’t seem to hit home at President Obama’s 21st-century White House.
In the ongoing chronicle of our broken southern border, Arizona’s Republican Sen. John Kyl charged late last month that in a recent one-on-one meeting, Mr. Obama told him if he takes steps to secure the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico, Republicans would be less likely to support comprehensive immigration reform, and therefore he would not do so. Politics: 1, national security: 0.
Additionally, Fox News reported last week that federal agents have discovered lookout bases set up by Mexican drug cartels in the hills of southern Arizona to monitor the activities of U.S. law enforcement officials. The lookouts are resupplied with food and water by delivery drivers so they can remain on watch for long periods of time.
Fellow Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain described how he and Mr. Kyl late last month visited the border region, where agents told them, “The drug cartel guys are up there right now watching us.” By keeping tabs on Border Patrol personnel, the drug smugglers can signal their companions when it is safe to drive their loads through, Mr. McCain said.
So, it has come to this: Mexican drug cartels have established forward bases on American soil right under the noses of border agents. If the president is unwilling to secure the southern border, U.S. sovereignty in that arid region becomes an open question.
Mr. Obama announced Monday the deployment of up to 1,200 National Guard troops along the southern border. Arizona is due to receive 524. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a frequent critic of the administration’s border-security efforts, called the measure “disappointing” and far short of the 3,000 troops she said Mr. Kyl and Mr. McCain had requested.
The president’s use of crisis as a political tool is familiar by now. In this case, Rule 8 of activism guru Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” appears operative: “Keep the pressure on.” Mr. Obama’s end goal seems to be citizenship and voting rights for illegals in the United States, estimated at more than 12 million. Historically, Hispanics vote Democratic - Mr. Obama garnered 67 percent of their vote in 2008 - so the party stands to benefit immensely from comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.
Accordingly, the ongoing crisis on the border, whether from drug smugglers or floods of immigrants from Mexico, ratchets up the pressure on border states and hastens the day when Republicans in Congress - resistant to plans for wholesale citizenship for illegals - are forced to knuckle under to the Democrats’ immigration reform bill. However, if the president were to take additional measures to secure the border, the crisis would ease, and his immigration reform strategy would languish.
Following this line of reasoning, Arizona’s new, stricter immigration law, set to take effect July 29, is counterproductive to Mr. Obama’s effort. The administration has announced that it intends to sue the state and overturn the law despite the fact that the measure simply mandates state enforcement of existing federal immigration law. Polling that shows majority public support for Arizona’s law nationwide reflects a sense that the federal government has abdicated its responsibility for border security. The litany of new security measures that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano touted last week in Washington, including the deployment of unmanned surveillance aircraft along the border, does little to refute that fact. Such promises have been made before and have done little to change the facts on the ground.
Few Americans begrudge immigrants from the south the dream of raising families in a safe, prosperous society. But many resent those who pursue that dream illegally. Americans understand that respect for home and hearth is intrinsic to the country’s place as the land of opportunity. The notion that a man’s home is his castle is not a selfish one, but a universal human desire. That notion writ large is enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution, which was established to, among other things, “provide for the common defense.” The Founders recognized that the unique nature of their experiment in liberty requires integrity of national boundaries.
Mr. Obama has an obligation as president to place national security above politics and acknowledge that “good fences make good neighbors.” After all, there is a very good fence around the White House.
Frank Perley is senior editor for opinion for The Washington Times.