Sunday, April 29, 2007

Immigration reform and triggers

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol predicts that a new “virtual wall” (composed of lights, ground sensors, and cameras) will detect 95% of all illegal border crossings. I’m willing to bet that almost no one—perhaps not even he—believes this. It’s like presidential elections in dictatorships, where no one would believe 100%, so you just say 95% to show everyone you’re admitting a little fallibility.

It occurs to me, though, that from a policy standpoint it is necessary to make the claim. The current buzzword for immigration reform is “trigger.” Once enforcement is deemed sufficient, then reform is triggered and some sort of changes can take place. The virtual wall thus become a “virtual trigger.” We can claim the virtual wall is stopping people, which then allows reform to happen.

Depending on my mood, I see this as just a way to get things done (like the old comparison between making laws and sausages) or as a ridiculous fiasco that will result in virtual solutions along with virtual walls.


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