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Coronavirus reminds us: Border security is national security

By Lew Jan Olowski


The global coronavirus crisis proves national borders are necessary, and border enforcement works.


A novel coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan, China, has infected tens of thousands, killed at least hundreds, and turned China’s biggest cities into ghost towns as the Chinese government locks down entire regions containing tens of millions of people, and countless millions more quarantine themselves.


The first line of defense against coronavirus is the border. Not just figuratively. Any national border is, by definition, a literal line of defense.


Thus, the United States imposed a travel ban on any foreigner that recently visited China. Otherwise, at least 14,000 people per day would be entering the U.S. via China.


Repelling people at the border prevents them from transmitting coronavirus inside the country. Airlines and governments worldwide are taking similar measures. As a result, contagion is slowed and lives are saved.


This is proof that defending national borders is an essential element of any national security strategy. Therefore, Americans should enjoy bipartisan consensus over the goal of border policy: to maximize the national security interests of the United States.

Unfortunately, the policy debate tends to ignore this fact. Instead, discourse focuses on the status of illegal immigrants. “They just want a better life,” says the cliché.


So should potential coronavirus carriers be allowed into the United States, too? Coronavirus carriers are often poor, they need health care, and they are fleeing a life-threatening emergency in their home countries. They’ll probably get superior medical care here. Admitting coronavirus carriers is no more absurd than any other anti-borders policy position.


Even U.S. presidential candidates believe illegal immigrants should get taxpayer-funded health care. Meanwhile, anti-borders activists sue the United States in federal court to stop President Trump from requiring that migrants provide their own coverage.


The whole point of health care is to treat sickness. Providing free health care to migrants necessarily means providing it to sick migrants. And few sick migrants need health care as desperately as those carrying coronavirus.


What if a coronavirus carrier misrepresents his purpose when entering the United States, or sneaks across the border undetected to get treatment? In that circumstance, he is an illegal alien: just like many others who illegally cross the border, overstay their visas, or otherwise misrepresent their intentions when entering.


Families from the coronavirus epicenter of Wuhan may also merit asylum privileges in the United States under anti-borders activists’ loose treatment of the term. Wuhaners, even those located far away from the coronavirus outbreak, are being persecuted. Their government is targeting them — detaining them and even paying bounties to anyone who turns them in — and they are denied basic services simply because of where they were born. Or, in legalese, because of their “membership in a particular social group.”


To be sure, coronavirus-carrying foreigners are a public safety threat. But anti-borders policies routinely place this burden on Americans anyway.


Take measles, for example. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles “is brought into the United States by unvaccinated people who get infected in other countries.” One outbreak erupted at an immigration detention facility near the U.S.-Mexico border. Another outbreak started with a refugee. About one in three measles outbreaks is caused by foreigners entering the United States, while the rest occur when unvaccinated Americans catch measles in foreign countries and bring it back home.


Not even everyone who lawfully enters the United States is required to get the measles vaccine, let alone illegal aliens. Nonetheless, local governments force the vaccine upon Americans who have no intention of traveling.


American children are even denied basic rights, like the right to attend public school, unless they are certifiably vaccinated.


Those who argue for lax border enforcement shift the public-safety burden onto American citizens in other ways, too. For example, sanctuary laws keep known criminals inside the community instead of letting federal authorities deport them. This includes criminals accused of serious crimes like homicide, sexual assault and robbery.


And, in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, prosecutors even treat alien criminals more leniently than they treat U.S. citizens by reducing their criminal sentences just to prevent federally mandated deportation.


Such sanctuary laws predictably enable recidivism with deadly consequences.


Anybody who understands the importance of border control during the coronavirus outbreak should also understand the importance of border control generally.


Lew Jan Olowski is staff counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.


Also published at: Lew J. Olowski, Coronavirus reminds us: Border security is national security, The New York Daily News, February 7, 2020.

IRLI is a supporting organization of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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