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Crossing the Line 

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You’ve got to hand it to Alex Segura, Russell Sias and 11 other Utahns set to drive down to Tombstone, Ariz., in hopes that our porous border with Mexico might be better fortified against wily Mexican nationals.

Hands folded and eyes squinted, Segura cuts an imposing figure in his March 27 Deseret Morning News photograph next to Sias, who looks as friendly as your grandpa. These men, along with more than 1,000 other national volunteers will travel 850 miles to, as the daily newspaper put it, “watch from a distance and call the Border Patrol to report illegal immigrants.” Sias invoked the specter of another 9/11 “unless we control our borders.” Segura said, “It’s about national security.” And if these men aren’t ferreting out terrorists, others attending believe they’ll prevent drug dealers and violent criminals from entering the land of the free.

Yes, let’s hand it to Segura and Sias. Problem is, I haven’t a clue as to what they might accomplish. The rules of their loosely defined “protest” prohibit laying hands on Mexican nationals intent on crossing the line. Set against thousands of people trying to enter the United States, however, more than a few have said they will carry weapons. But if the intent is “to call” Border Patrol, surely more will carry cell phones than handguns. You can hear the shouting, followed by speed dialing, even now: “Stop right there, Juan, or I’ll phone Border Patrol!”

Of all the issues we call tar babies—those prickly, sticky questions that ensnare us all no matter what—few rank quite as high as immigration or, as critics call it, illegal immigration. If you respect the law, then surely you care about punishing those who break it—poor Mexican nationals included. Then again, President James K. Polk followed no law but the decorum of war when the United States seized northern Mexico, Utah territory included, in 1848. The fact that foreign banks hold more than 50 percent of our national debt poses a much larger threat to national security. Let’s hear the anti-immigration crowd holler about that for once.

Our national descent into paranoia and xenophobia is reaching disturbing new realms. There’s little evidence that Mexican nationals represent even the smallest of terrorist threats, yet we harp on it almost without reason. Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin recently wrote In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror, a book justifying the shameful forced internment of 112,000 Japanese Americans more than 50 years ago. Faced with more draconian visa requirements, American businesses and universities are losing vital science and engineering talent to more open, less frightened nations. Happily, and with pride, we shoot ourselves in the foot.

The irony, of course, is that these “illegals” are much less intent on doing us harm than they are on improving the lives of their families. Scores have died of dehydration, or suffocation packed into trucks crossing into Texas and California. Without the cars Segura or Sias will no doubt use for their trip south, hundreds more have died—and no doubt will die—making the trip across Mexico’s desert on foot. These “terrorists” are so exceedingly well financed.

Faced with an enemy of thousands willing to risk their lives—and, yes, break the law—for a better life, we can wish Segura and Sias the best. Me? I’ll wish for a less paranoid, more understanding America.

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