The Closing of the American Border, Edward Alden, Annotated Bibliography

The Closing of the American Border by Edward Alden

The Fence, Chapter 8 of The Closing of the American Border, focuses on the changes that 9/11 brought to border control in regards to immigration as a result of the fear of terrorism. After 9/11 the priority of the U.S. government was to keep U.S. citizens secure by reinforcing the borders, particularly the southern borders diving the U.S. and Mexico. However, many criticized that the billions of dollars invested in securing the border completely was highly ambitious, unrealistic, and had little to do with fighting terrorism. Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), admitted in a Fox Radio broadcast in June 2007 that he did not know a single case where terrorists had used the southern border to cross into the United States (274). Over emphasizing the border with patrols and expensive technology was no longer about preventing another terrorist attack but about preventing immigrants from coming into the United States.
“It was one thing to argue that immigrants were overpopulating the schools or draining social budgets or that a new generation of immigrants would for some reason be more difficult to assimilate than the previous generations; it was another to argue that some of them might be plotting to kill thousands of Americans (270).”

In 2004, a program called America’s Shield Initiative (ASI) was implemented, using remote sensors, spy drones, and high-technology to survey the border. However, the equipment proved defective and ineffective after a cost of $2.5 billion over 5 years. A second attempt at border security through “virtual fences” was initiated in 2005, called the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), contracted by Boeing. Cameras, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles as well as more Border Patrol agents were called for. SBI promised to have control over the border by 2013, but at a cost of $8 billion. Again, the equipment disappointed and the plan failed.
“When you try to fight economic reality, it is at best an extremely expensive and very, very difficult and almost always doomed to failure (274).”

The goal of the DHS was to make it so difficult and expensive to enter the United States for the sake of securing the country from terrorism, which caused negative effects in multiple ways. For example, in December 2007, the US doubled the cost of applying for a temporary visa to $131. Also, because of the lengthy FBI security background checks, by 2006 more than 1 million people were waiting for their applications for permanent residence in the US. Overseas travel to the US became down nearly 10% from pre-9/11 levels and the number of foreign students decreased greatly, as well. The author mentions that this is due to the difficulties with gaining visas and the perception of American hostility to foreign countries. Companies seeking skilled employees from abroad faced serious problems with getting visas, too. Thus, 9/11 has not only changed the purpose of the border control but also caused negative results in multiple aspects of society.

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