How many immigrants is too many?
If Monday’s demonstrations in support of illegal immigrants showed anything, it was how porous our country’s borders have been! In their hundreds of thousands the demonstrators sought to remind us that they have come only to improve their lot in life, not do us harm. Well and good, nor should anyone seek to demean the contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make to our country – traditionally a nation of immigrants. But the overarching issue that can no longer be ignored is this: how many more such persons can the USA accommodate without beginning to resemble the countries they came from? Is there no limit? And what about the millions waiting patiently for many years at American embassies around the world to obtain an immigrant visa granting them legal entry into the USA? Clearly, we must find the political will and physical means to gain control of our borders now. But how?
Here’s an idea: let’s put the same number of troops we now have in Iraq along our 2,150-mile southern border for however long it takes to help the Border Patrol put an end to illegal crossings. Too radical, you say?
It didn’t seem so radical to President Woodrow Wilson 90 years ago when he sent many more than that number to protect the border. At the time, Mexico was in the throes of a civil war with marauding bands roaming the countryside. One of these, known as the “Army of the North,” was led by Francisco “Pancho” Villa, who was to become a Robin Hood-like folk hero south of the border. At one point in his revolutionary career, however, Villa was apparently double-crossed by an American arms supplier. In retribution, he and his band of some 500 bandoleros crossed the border and raided Columbus, New Mexico on March 9, 1916, leaving behind a town in ruins and a couple of dozen dead.
Within four months of this incident, some 158,000 national guardsmen (25,000 more soldiers than we now have in Iraq!) from all over the country had been federalized and sent to the border. Additionally, Gen. John (“Black Jack”) Pershing and two columns of regular army troops were immediately sent into Mexico on a “punitive expedition” to hunt down Villa and his followers. Protected by the local population and familiar with the trackless wastes of the region, Villa was able to elude capture by the U.S. Army (he was assassinated by unidentified political rivals seven years later). America’s entry into World War I in 1917 drew most of the soldiers from the Mexican border to Europe, where Gen. Pershing had somewhat greater success in fighting the Kaiser’s legions.
The insidious flow of thousands, nay, millions of illegal immigrants across our southern border can hardly be compared to an armed raid on one of our border towns, although the impact of their continually swelling numbers on our public services, economy, mores and values may ultimately be far greater. One wonders just what it will take for us to gain control of our borders Ð another Pancho Villa?
– Fred Kalhammer is a retired Foreign Service Officer and Stateline resident.
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