Let’s think about this ‘border crisis’

Published 2:43 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

By Thomas L. Knapp

I’m seeing a lot of back and forth lately on whether or not there’s a “crisis” at the border, with greatly increased migration and limited ability on the part of law enforcement to respond.

Personally, I don’t consider it a “crisis” at all. Immigration is just people moving from one place to another – maybe permanently, maybe temporarily – for any of various reasons.

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Maybe they’re safer from criminal or government (but I repeat myself) violence in the new place than in the old place. Maybe there are more jobs. Maybe the jobs pay more.

Or whatever. Moving isn’t some kind of unnatural phenomenon. The average American does it 11 or 12 times in his or her life.

“Now, Tom,” I’ve been told many times, “if you think there’s no crisis at the border, you must not live near the border.”

In fact, I DO live near the border – fairly close to the US border in the form of the Gulf coast, and VERY close to the border separating Alachua County, Florida from Levy County, Florida.

On any given morning, I can watch literally hundreds of immigrants fleeing Levy County and crossing into Alachua County for better livelihoods on the other side of that border.

A lot of people live in Levy County, but work in Alachua County.

Why do they live in Levy County? Because it’s cheaper. Home prices are lower. Rent is lower. Taxes are lower.

Why do they work in Alachua County? Because wages are higher.

Is that a crisis? No.

Why isn’t it a crisis?

Because the meaning of crisis is something politicians can use to make people fearful and demand bigger government.

It’s hard to make Americans afraid of other Americans crossing city and town limits, county lines, and state borders, simply because hundreds of millions of us do that hundreds of billions of times per year. Most Americans can’t do their grocery shopping without crossing at least one or two “borders.”

The only way to make Americans afraid of “border” crossing is to pick a smaller subset of immigrants – the few million who cross the US-Mexico “border” on their way from Latin American countries each year – and make them sound like a threatening “other.”

Are those immigrants really any different than the Americans who do the same border-crossing stuff every day?

Well, they do tend to be more socially conservative, to commit fewer crimes, to pay more in taxes, and to consume less in government welfare benefits. But that’s not very frightening. 

Which is why the people who want you to stay frightened generally omit, or lie about, such facts.

If there’s a border crisis at all, it’s that so many Americans believe these demagogues’ scary border crisis stories.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).