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Sky-Rocketing Security, Essay Example

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The urgency to generate U.S. border security has held both a long-lasting and volatile impact on the political and cultural realities of American life. From its inception, the nation has faced the daunting of task of trying to preserve freedom of movement and international travel while at the same time minimizing the many risks associated with an increasingly globalized world. The post-911 climate has resulted in a newly invigorated cry for action in regard to U.S. border security that is evident both in popular sentiment and official government action. The Department of Homeland Security is as much a part of the task of securing and maintaining the national borders as the Department of Immigration or other state and federal law enforcement agencies. no matter what perspective is brought to bear on the question of domestic security, one fact remains unchanged and that is that “a secure border must nonetheless be acknowledged as an important element of national security.” (Ridgeway 131) The threats to domestic security that are associated with insecure borders are only  those associated with terrorism, but those associated with drug trafficking and with mass numbers of illegal immigrants.

The rapidly changing realms of technology and travel have also posed additional challenges for the U.S. in terms of border security.  In a world where globalization is increasingly becoming a standard it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine the U.S. or any other nation adopting an isolationist policy where border security is so tight that it begins to disrupt international trade and business. As Harold Kennedy mentions in the article “Border Security” (2006) issues of terrorism, illegal immigration, drug-trafficking and international crime have been exacerbated in the  modern world, partially due to the emphasis that  is placed on the opportunities for economic growth and stimulus that result from having free-trade between nations and a global economy.

Kennedy writes that the conflict between opportunity and threats to security creates a kind of political and cultural duality that lies at the heart of the issue of border security. In Kennedy’s estimation,  “ this duality is said to necessitate an approach that balances economic prosperity with security imperatives” (Kennedy). The difficulty is sensing when and where one side of the duality is being slighted in favor of the other. A closely associated issues, especially in regard to democratic societies is the way in which border security touches on issues of individual freedom. As efforts are stepped up to make the U.S. borders more secure, a rise in law enforcement and surveillance is almost inevitable. As these actions are increased a potential hazard exists that the level of civil liberties and freedoms that are offered in a democratic society may be impinged upon or even eradicated.

A further issue that is associated with border security is the economic cost to the U.S. or any other nation that decides to make an effort to truly secure its borders. however, for  the United States, the task of securing its borders is made much more difficult by geographical conditions. On the one hand, America is flanked by two oceans which would seem to provide a secure border on its flanks, leaving that suggestion unchallenged for the monet, the reality remains that the United States must deal with the problem of securing its southern border with Mexico and its northern border with Canada. In both cases, the length of the border is thousands of miles long and spans across many states. The border with Mexico, for example, stretches across many states in the Southern U.S. and in each region, the particular challenges and attitudes in regard to border security are different.

Jason Ridgeway writes in his article “The Border: Exploring the U.S.-Mexican Divide.”  (2009) that not only do the physical challenges of various geographical locations along the Mexican border change, but the attitudes in each of these geographical regions in regard to border security itself change. So, for instance, Ridgeway notes that “perceptions of the border change with the geography” so that in the southernmost areas of Texas, “a distaste for border fences [is] common, even among law enforcement officials.” (Ridgeway 131) However, according to Ridgeway, the idea of a border fence becomes increasingly popular with U.S. citizens as one moves further west. Because the long northern and southern borders of America span through so many regions where attitudes and physical geography  change, it is quite a formidable task to develop comprehensive border security even on a theoretical, not to mention practical, scale.

The aforementioned challenge of cost and effectiveness is reflected in American culture by the fact that border security has become not only a hot and controversial political issue, but it has emerged as an important industry in terms of economic revenues.  Kennedy mentions that modern studies have been conducted to establish a figure of how much money is being spent on border security. Kennedy writes that “A recent study by Frost & Sullivan’s aerospace and defense group found that border security has become a multi-billion dollar industry” (Kennedy). As such, there is a degree of opportunism associated with border security on both the political and economic side. The business side of border security, obviously, involves not only the conceptual side of consulting with state governments and with the federal government on issues of border security but on the development and deployment of new security technologies and strategies.

Kennedy points out that the federal government in the U.S. faced with protecting the long north and south borders of the country has embraced forms of technology even at enormous economic expense. Kennedy observes that “The federal government, for example, has tried in recent years to develop electronic systems of cameras and sensors to detect and identify border intrusions.” (Kennedy). The idea of keeping watch over the borders rather than closing them or building fences is appealing because it allows Homeland Security and law enforcement to monitor the flow of cross-border traffic without disrupting it so much that businesses or innocent travelers are hurt. That said, monitoring through electronic equipment may only go so far in terms of limiting the threats of having unsecured borders. The steady increase year after year of drug-trafficking and illegal immigration poses a very profound question in regard to U.S. domestic security.  The fact is that most people, including politicians and law enforcement are deeply concerned about  terrorist threats. However, many other serious threats exist in terms of border security, particular yon the Mexican border where smuggling and illegal immigration are at an all time high and continue to rise each year.

Stephen Dinan offers some sinister sounding statistics in regard to drug trafficking and illegal immigration on the Mexican border in his article,”Interceptions of Immigrants Stubbornly Low; Border Security Efforts Have a Long Way to Go.” (2013). He notes that “the Border Patrol apprehended 327,118 illegal border crossers, while it estimates another 208,813 got away.” Additionally, according to Dinan, “Auditors also said that drug seizures were up 83 percent in 2011 compared with 2006“ (Dinan A01). The problems on the Mexican border are only increasing with time instead of decreasing. New strategies and  technologies are needed to address the problem. Dinan, like many other observers and critics of the current administration suggest that president Obama and the American Congress have done little more than throw money at the problem and that the money has, for the most part, been wasted.

Kennedy agrees with Dinan and remarks that “Fueled by worries about terrorism, illegal immigration and drug smuggling, U.S. spending for border security is skyrocketing, but critics complain that much of the money is being wasted.” (Kennedy) In a case such as this where public policy and money must be used wisely due to the very important issue of national security that is is associated with maintaining the borders, the best test as to whether or not a policy is working and whether or not it should be continued is to weigh its economic costs with  real-world results. Therefore, expensive border-fences and electronic technology to spy on the borders is a good idea only in areas where such tactics can be proven to work. One of the more challenging aspects of securing the U.S. borders is based in geography,a s previously mentioned. The sheer massiveness of the borders combined with the changing landscape and cultural attitudes necessitates that wide range of options be engaged in order to provide secure borders to the U.S. without  destroying civil liberties or stunting economic prosperity.

Some of the solutions offered by Kennedy include “more enforcement agents, expanded detention and removal facilities, enhanced physical security infrastructure, and a major upgrade in border control technology.” Additionally new technologies such as “unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite imagery, sensors, cameras that are computer-programmed to be able to operate based on algorithms that identify certain kinds of movements” (Kennedy) are also potential aides in the effort to secure America’s borders. All of these ideas and technologies are useful, but none of them, alone or in conjunction with one another, will produce the highest level of results so long as border security remains a decentralized effort.

In other words, a national plan is needed, where the federal government can dictate a series of responses to the overall picture of border security. The centralization and unification of the existing multi-state programs that deal with border security will almost surely emerge as the most efficient and most-needed aspect of future attempts to establish border security in the U.S. By having an overall policy that transcends individual regions while simultaneously respecting each region’s unique needs, the money and manpower that is presently being used in an effort to secure the borders will result in a greater widespread effectiveness and therefore result in  America being a safer country.

Works Cited

Dinan, Stephen. “Interceptions of Immigrants Stubbornly Low; Border Security Efforts Have a Long Way to Go.” The Washington Times (Washington, DC) 10 Jan. 2013: A01.

Kennedy, Harold. “Border Security.” National Defense July 2006: 46+.

Ridgeway, Jason. “The Border: Exploring the U.S.-Mexican Divide.” Military Review 89.2 (2009): 131.

Thompson, Donald F. “Terrorism and Domestic Response: Can DOD Help Get It Right.” Joint Force Quarterly Jan. 2006: 16+.

Vaughan-Williams, Nick. Border Politics: The Limits of Sovereign Power. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2009.

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