John Derbyshire: Happy Birthday To Me!...Is A Secure Border Too Much To Ask?
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Israel Fence

Israel's Sinai fence: it works, and it doesn't cost that much

I have fallen disgracefully behind with work owing to the distractions of a birthday. The editors are being nice about it, telling me I can post some of the material for the coming weekend’s Radio Derb in lieu of a regular column, so long as said material is approximately on-topic.

Herewith, then, a segment on immigration from this coming weekend’s podcast. It’s in transcript form, complete with “quotes” and “end quote” verbal markers. You have to not mind that. It’s my birthday.


A constant theme on Radio Derb is the slow-rising floodwaters of illegal immigration from poor and dysfunctional countries into prosperous, well-governed ones.

It’s thankless work. There’s a rich crop of headlines every week. Africans and Muslims gather in the hundreds of thousands along the south shore of the Mediterranean, waiting to be smuggled across to Europe; or the same groups camp around the channel ports in Northern France, trying to get to Britain where the authorities are most gullible, the natives most docile, and the benefits easiest to get; or illiterate Mexican and Central American peasants pour across our own southern border.

Yet nothing gets done. No-one but us patriots on the fringes speaks out about it. The reasons are well-enough known, at least to the few who pay attention. Business likes illegal immigration because it depresses wages. Labor likes illegal immigration because labor, in its politically organized form, nowadays means mostly public-sector employee lobbies keen to acquire new clients. (We don’t say “unions” here on Radio Derb. These are not unions seeking a fair share of profits, they are lobbies seeking a bigger slice of the public fisc.)

And over all the discourse about this hangs the thick choking fog of ideological correctness. The state ideology of the Western world is utopian egalitarianism: the dogma that the fate of nations in no way depends on the group characteristics of the inhabitants. To stand against this dogma is seriously antisocial, as if you were an outspoken atheist in the Massachusetts Bay colony, or a proselytizing Christian in present-day Saudi Arabia, or a campaigner for constitutional democracy in Stalin’s U.S.S.R.

Since the people flooding into Western countries are overwhelmingly Muslim and/or nonwhite, to talk about the rising flood in a critical way violates the dogma. That’s why Western electorates are so reluctant to press their politicians on mass immigration, and why our politicians, even when not thoroughly bought by the lobbyists, are so shy of taking initiatives.

Here’s an illustrative story from Fox News, June 3rd, headline: WHITE HOUSE SEEKS EXTRA $1.4B TO ADDRESS SURGE IN CHILDREN CROSSING SOUTHERN BORDER. The story here is the swelling numbers of minors, including some very young children, crossing into the U.S.A. from the south.

The numbers are really impressive. Quote, much interrupted by me:

Between 2008 and 2011, the number of children landing in the custody of Refugee Resettlement fluctuated between 6,000 and 7,500 per year …
Just hold those numbers in your mind, listeners: Up to three years ago, six to seven and a half thousand a year. Quote continues:
In 2012 border agents apprehended 13,625 unaccompanied children …
So in one year the number doubled. Quote continues:
… and that number surged even more—to 24,668—last year …
So that’s another doubling in one year. Quote continues:
The total is expected to exceed 60,000 this year.
End quote. That’s more than a doubling. From last year’s number to more than sixty thousand is a two-and-a-halfing.

Remember that story your middle-school math teacher told the class, about the wily courtier who persuaded his foolish king to promise him a chessboard full of rice grains, with one grain on the first chessboard square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on, doubling each time?

If the dumb king had had the sense to keep a mathematician on the court payroll he would have known in advance what he was committing to: a total 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains of rice, or about 363 billion tons of the stuff—around 600 times the entire current world production.

With numbers doubling every year, we’re in for something similar. What will the likely consequence be? Further quote from that Fox report, quote:

More than 90 percent of those sheltered by the government are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, many driven north by pervasive violence and poverty in their home countries.
End quote. Why are their home countries so violent and poor? Our state ideology allows no agency to nonwhite peoples. They are mere helpless pawns; anything bad that happens to them is the fault of white people somehow.

A more realistic view would be that Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are violent and poor because the people who live there have made them that way.

If the first theory is true—the one suggested by utopian egalitarianism—then the least we can do is allow 60 thousand, or 120 thousand, or 240 thousand of these people to settle in our country every year. That is the actual position of our ruling classes.

If the second theory is true, then admitting such numbers of Hondurans,Guatemalans, and Salvadorans for settlement in the U.S.A. will make the U.S.A., or parts of it, as violent and poor as Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Which is pretty much what we see, those of us not blinded by ideology or money interest.

What’s the reaction of the administration to these swelling flows? As the Fox headline tells us, the reaction is to ask Congress for more money. No, not more money to stop the flows—that would be wrong—but money to make the new arrivals comfortable when they get here. It will cost, quote:

…more than $2.28 billion to house, feed and transport the children to shelters or reunite them with relatives already living in the United States. The new estimate is about $1.4 billion more than the government asked for in Obama’s budget request sent to Congress earlier this year.
End quote. Our southern border is roughly two thousand miles long. Divide $2.28 billion by two thousand, you get a million dollars and change per mile. This is for one year, remember.

Could we not fully secure the southern border and keep it secure for a million dollars a mile per year? Of course we could. The Israelis secure their border for far less than that, including their border across the Negev desert, which is at least as inhospitable as our Southwest.

Suppose for example we had permanently-manned border posts every ten miles along the entire length: five-man occupancy, rotating on six-hour shifts. That’s two hundred posts, twenty border patrolmen each post, total four thousand guys. Figure current cost per patrolman of $150,000 per annum with benefits, training, and so on, you’re talking annual cost 600 million dollars—what in Congressional budget negotiations is known as “dinner and a movie.” You could throw in fulltime drone surveillance and rapid-response teams for attempted crossings, and still have a lot of change from $2.28 billion.

Why don’t we just do this?

For the aforementioned reasons: Our politicians are bought and sold by business and public-sector labor lobbies, and they—and all the rest of us—are cowed and silenced by a stupid and false ideology.

And so a great nation crumbles.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by com is  FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at

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