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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Borders - International Communities with an "Imaginary Line"

"You said I don't want to build a fence," Romney said. "You talk about magnets -- you put in place a magnet."

Another down and dirty GOP debate about (ho hum) "immigration" continues causing angst among Republicans.

I swear, the ghost of President Ronald Reagan was whispering in the background, "There you go again...."

Governor Romney hammered his former colleague on October 18, about Governor Rick Perry's duplicitous policy to prevent illegal immigrants from traveling through Mexico, to cross the border into Texas - to find jobs and hope for a new future.

Apparently, while the Texas governor preaches a hard party line against illegal immigrants, the state offers their children an opportunity for subsidized education. Of course, this Texas policy makes no Republican sense and Governor Romney is correct to raise questions about its duplicity.

But, in my mind, the bigger issue is how to manage international borders, especially when imaginary lines in the ground create the equivalent of the Great Wall of China, separating people based upon where they are born or pay taxes.  By the way, although it's a magnificent tourist attraction, The Great Wall of China eventually failed to keep marauders away.  In modern times, Germany's Berlin Wall created decades of obstructionism. When the 20th Century Cold War finally ended, the wall's breakdown was a hugely symbolic symbol of freedom.  Lessons learned?  No. Republicans have not learned from the history of failed walls.  Not yet.

American Republicans perpetrate a myth about border security. We can try, but it doesn't work.

Millions of US dollars are wasted creating barriers, negatively impacting innocent people who might want to cross international borders with Mexico or Canada, just to visit relatives or for tourism.  Illegal immigrants sneak into the US via clandestine methods, paying unscrupulous wetback transport services, putting their lives at risk of suffocation while hidden in trucks or the potential to die of thirst abandoned in the Texas desert.  Meanwhile, the employers of illegals get a modest fine if they are caught hiring people without immigration papers.  Instead of building walls, shouldn't American law enforcement declare a no tolerance policy for hiring illegals?

America's international borders with Canada and Mexico are imaginary lines.  Communities of people lived on both sides of our international borders for thousands of years before lawmakers separated families for the sake of protecting territories, most likely, to divide tax revenues.

Jacques Poitras writes a wonderful history about borders in "Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border".  He describes the cross border community of Madawaska, located in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. In 1842, a border was created between Maine and New Brunswick by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.  Nonetheless, people didn't pay much attention to this 1842 imaginary boundary. Although locals respected the laws put in place at the borders, it didn't do much to impact their lives until post the September 11, 2001 security, which sliced their once friendly communities in two.  Even so, enhanced border security created stress for a few tiny towns in Northern Maine, where people cannot travel from one place to another without crossing the international border with Canada, because roads in dense forests simply don't exist to support direct transportation.

Although the intimacy of the Texas border with Mexico might not be as tight as between Maine and Canada, the boundaries existing between these states and countries are, nonetheless, just imaginary lines drawn by people who, over one hundred years ago, thought they knew what they were doing.

America's immigration policy should not inflict punitive damages on innocent people who are doing what their ancestors have done for centuries, to create friendship, trade and harmony in spite of imaginary lines drawn in the dirt.

Governor Romney and Governor Perry should stop throwing dirt at one another about immigration.

Instead of trying to appease a RWE-RWE (rightwingextremist) GOP base, who clearly deny their own immigrant genealogies, the two potential world leaders should find ways of creating international trade agreements and cultural business opportunities. Let's protect policies to reinforce what people living along  imaginary boundary lines crave - to reunite their families and, plainly, get along.

Jacques Poitras' book "Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border" is a wonderful history story, published in 2011 by Goose Lane Editions in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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