Saturday, November 14, 2015

International borders have a purpose

When I was in high school, a teacher assigned a paper on how to prevent war. One student shared with me her paper that proposed the elimination of borders and nationhood. I didn't think her solution viable at the time, and this new century has proven that eliminating borders has consequences.

The European Union tore down the inconvenience and costs of international borders, allowing free movement of goods and people among all EU countries. That had its benefits as tariffs disappeared, passports became unnecessary and tourism expanded. But this removal of international barriers also has its consequences, as Europe is discovering in the hordes of refugees streaming into EU countries. The refugees come to escape wars and poverty in their native countries. They come for the opportunities available in wealthier EU countries, particularly Germany and Great Britain.

And there seems to be no end to the numbers of people who want to escape the horrors and deprivations of life in Syria, Sudan, Iraq and other nations. While some refugees are being welcomed, Europeans are beginning to realize that there are limits to the numbers of foreigners they can safely and economically accommodate. These foreigners are not French, German, Italian or whatever. They do not share the language, the customs, the history, the principles, the religion or the politics of their hosts. Large numbers of such immigrants will forever change the traditional standards of these host countries.

On the topic of U.S. immigration, someone has offered this: "Immigration without assimilation is invasion."

The drawing of international boundaries has sometimes been arbitrary, as it was after World War I and World War II, and immigration and invasion have transformed borders throughout history. But in a world of rapid international travel, international stability is needed. Immigration such as we are seeing across the Mediterranean from Asia and Africa to Europe is destabilizing, particularly when mixed with the sort of religious terrorism that results in the slaughter of innocents in Paris Friday.

Free access across international borders threatens to destabilize Europe and end the idealistic experiment in common borders and economies. We can talk about the "family of man," but in reality people are raised in very different traditions and have different standards and goals. If immigrants are not willing to abandon their old traditions and adopt the traditions and principles of their new country, they are not assimilating and will not be successful. In fact, they will bring with them some of the pathologies that made their native countries untenable.

International borders serve a purpose, as France has painfully discovered, and other countries will inevitably share that realization. 

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