Are Immigration and National Security Inextricably Linked?

In this segment of AGORA, Constantinos Scaros cannot understand why voters do not link immigration and national security. Dan Georgakas blames the past two administrations, and the political establishment.


Dan, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has built his campaign on multiple themes, but the two most prevalent ones have to do with national security (namely, defeat ISIS), and immigration (deport illegal aliens and build a wall to keep everyone out except those permitted to enter legally).

Although his appeal extends beyond those two issues (he is also self-funding and thus in no one’s pocket, he rails against political correctness, and he promises to bring jobs back to the United States), national security and immigration are at the core of his message.

That he is the frontrunner makes sense, then, when looking at how high national security ranks among Republican voters’ most important issues. Paradoxically, though, immigration ranks among the lowest. Do the voters not realize the nexus between these two issues, or am I missing something?

All of immigration’s advantages notwithstanding, there are three main drawbacks: 1) an influx of illegal aliens who potentially would be on the public dole; 2) an influx of legal aliens who would complete with American workers – not to mention that both legal and illegal aliens add more bodies to our already-congested cities; and 3) the possibility of terrorists sneaking in through our porous borders from Canada, Mexico, our airports, and our ports, pretending to be displaced refugees or mild-mannered migrants seeking a better life in the Land of Opportunity.

Granted, the first two categories do not really affect national security, but the third one most certainly does.

Why are the voters – the same voters who are so concerned about national security – so apathetic when it comes to immigration?

President Obama recently admonished not only Trump but several of his Republican cohorts for denouncing the acceptance of Syrian refugees into the United States, pointing out that there is just as much danger of a terrorist sneaking in through the hordes that arrive daily, courtesy of visaless travel. He is absolutely right, yet it is shocking that given that realization, he does not consider reforming the visaless travel process.

That’s like saying: why bother locking the front door of the house, if the side door is broken and burglars can get in from there anyway?

There are multitudes of Americans who deem all of this reaction to ISIS as mass hysteria. They point out statistics along the lines of: “the chances are higher you’d slip in the bathtub and crack your head wide open than being beheaded by ISIS,” and so they simply consider deadly terrorism a hazard of life. After all, if you go to a ballgame and get hit in the head by a line drive foul ball, it might kill you – but the chances are so slim, right?

For those folks, I can see placing immigration so low on the list, because they seem to think our days of worrying about national security are over. Russia is “our enemy from the 1980s,” they mock, and “it’s time we stop meddling in other countries’ business, lay down our arms, and come home. No one will bother us if we do that,” they tell each other reassuringly.

Fine. They would rank both illegal immigration and national security quite low on the priority list. Makes perfect sense.

But for those who place national security at the top of the list, followed by “Obamacare,” the economy, taxes, jobs, education, Second Amendment, defunding Planned Parenthood, the Defense of Marriage Act, eminent domain, and a host of other issues before they finally rank immigration number 15 or so – I just don’t get it. Can you make any sense of it?


Much of what you say about immigration hysteria is on the money. At the same time, the immigration issue is a manifestation of an incredibly inept foreign policy begun by George W. Bush and continued through Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

As Bernie Sanders has noted, the invasion of Iraq was the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history. It has disrupted the lives of millions, killed unknown numbers, and cost Americans trillions of dollars.  Sanders saw it coming. Clinton did not.  Jeb Bush has surrounded himself with the same foreign policy advisors used by Bush.

Today’s refugees are the direct result of the invasion of Iraq and our follies in Syria. Obama, strongly supported by Clinton, has taken stronger aim at Syria’s Assad, a wretched dictator to be sure, than with ISIS. During their tenure, ISIS went from being a cult to a mini-state with an army of tens of thousands and income in the multimillions.

The support of anti-Assad forces led to retaliatory actions that have generated the flow of refugees that had previously been mainly Iraqis and Afghans. Russia, which has vital naval and air bases in Syria, supports Assad.

Only Sanders and Trump among presidential hopefuls have stated working with Russia against ISIS has a much higher priority that ousting Assad. Carpet bombing as advocated by Cruz would be highly counterproductive and Rubio’s desire to deploy American ground troops would continue the endless war that Sanders terms a quagmire.

In regard to refugees, if you break dishes in an antique shop, you pay up.  We are the prime cause for the number of refugees. We do not demand Turkey stop its conveyor belt refugee strategy designed to get money and concession from the EU. We do nothing to aid an already beleaguered Greece deal with this problem. We expect an economically distressed  EU to take care of refugees.

You note that refugees in America could end up on the public dole. Worse yet would be the formation of unstable ghettos such as those seen in Europe. These scenarios are not inevitable if the government takes time to shape a transitory program.  Such programs would cost far less than military actions or uprisings in hostile ethnic ghettos.

Refugees would certainly take American jobs and would work for lower wages.  The positive economic impact of any mass immigration usually takes at least a decade to materialize and is not inevitable.

ISIS would definitely plant “moles” among the refugees. That’s a challenge for our security officials who have proven inept at handling visa issues and others means of retaining residence in the United States.

All that said, the United States has a moral obligation to deal with the refugee crisis it helped create. A humanistic but practical entry program would set an enviable moral standard for others to emulate. That challenge appears unlikely to be met.

Dino, your reference to those who plea that we stop meddling in so many nations and clearly define our national interest is well taken. Refraining from gun-ho militarism and schemes for regime change  is not isolationism as often charged. It simply means seeing foreign intrigues as risky bets with a very low chance of longtime rewards worthy of the risks.

Regarding campaign financing, I prefer the Sanders way to that of Trump. Sanders depends on a very large public sending relatively small sums in response to programs. Trump’s a  one-man show accountable to no one but himself. Clinton’s courtship of big money is like that of the other candidates. Recently she stated that a $675,000 lecture fee from Goldman Sachs just happened to be “what they were offering.”