‘If you don’t have borders then, you don’t have a country’ means nothing.

Sunday, July 15th, 2018
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

Our President loves to say, “If you don’t have borders then, you don’t have a country.” What does that mean?

Obviously he does not mean that our country does not have defined borders and thus is not a country. With some minor areas of disagreement about our border with Cuba over an overlap in the extension of the continental shelf, and some dispute over Wake Island and Swains Island, America’s borders are settled.

If he does mean the absence of settled borders means there is no country, then I dare say there are large numbers on non-country countries in the world. Major border disputes exist with lots of countries and their neighbors but they are still countries. Israel has been independent for 70 years and does not have established borders. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, South Sudan, Sudan, and Ukraine fight over disputed borders. Are these not countries?

Less violent disputes exist around the world. Some, like in Ireland, Cyprus, and the Balkans, were very hot spots not long ago.

If the President does not mean established borders, he must mean strictly controlled borders with strict accountability for individuals entering and extreme vetting. If this is the standard, then lots of countries are not countries. Ireland and Northern Ireland have an open border and are both countries. The fate of this open border is a major Brexit issue. Because the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations and there is no United States Consulate in Iran, when Iranians could get visas to the United States, they would have to go abroad to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, or Ankara, Turkey, to get visas. Turkish-Iranian relations are troubled and Turkish-UAE relations are worse, yet I have never once have been told by an Iranian that he would not be able to go to Abu Dhabi or Ankara to get a visa. Iranian and Saudi Arabian relations are as bad as two countries not directly shooting at each other can get, yet last year 85,000 Iranians made the hajj to Saudi Arabia. Despite Italian laments about Albanians in Italy, Italy allows visa-free entry to Albanians. During the ebola crisis, we learned of the fluid borders between countries in West Africa. Schengen-Group countries in Europe pass borders without inspection, or have until recently. Azerbaijanis get their immigrant visas in Georgia and never has an Azerbaijani complained to me that he cannot get into Georgia. Are Azerbijan and Georgia not countries?

In an extremely unremarked-upon article about the soccer-playing boys who got lost in a cave in Thailand, it turns out many of boys are stateless refugees who pass unmolested between Myanmar and Thailand.  Are Myanmar and Thailand not countries?

Had our own country been to location of this cave crisis, the kids may have died (think Puerto Rico) or detained in the American immigration gulag – children edition.  As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in a recent episode of his podcast, Revisionist History, in an episode, “General Chapman’s Last Stand,” he discussed a large 30-year-long sociological and anthropological study of the United States – Mexico border called the Mexican Migration Project. The investigators found that the last twenty-plus years of imposing strict border controls at the United States-Mexican borders has been hugely expensive, has killed lots of people, and has led to an increase in the undocumented population of the United States. On the podcast, a project leader concluded that the quickest way to reduce the undocumented population of Mexicans in the United States, a reduction by a third, would be to give these undocumented people green cards, i.e., stop the militarization of the border.

So, just like defining “borders” as defined and recognized borders, it is clearly not true that countries without strict border controls are not countries.

So, Mr. President, on the contrary, over-zealous and inflexible border controls do not make a country a country. Good-neighborliness, humanitarian impulses, and serious cost-benefit analysis reveals that borders in the sense of militarized borders don’t make a country a secure and peaceful country. Rather, “borders” increase undocumented populations, cause reputational damage to a country, and decrease the good relations between countries that maintain all of our security and well-being. But like the economy, climate change, and gun ownership, in immigration policy we Americans do not let facts and empiricism (science), get in the way of our policies. If you don’t have borders then, you don’t have a country doesn’t make sense at any level, but that sense is not a factor should be clear by now. Posted July 15, 2018.


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