The importance of border security is not universally recognized

Jim Geraghty of National Review sticks up for Project Veritas filmmaker James O’Keefe against criticism of his border-security stunt, in which he sashayed from Mexico into America while dressed as Osama bin Laden:

Maybe O’Keefe’s video is your cup of tea, maybe it isn’t. It probably does tap into that “get a load of this!” share-able element necessary to take an idea viral, but on the other hand, the obstacle is not really getting Americans to believe the border is not secure. The obstacle isn’t really getting Americans to believe the border ought to be secure, either. The obstacle is getting incumbent politicians, and this administration in particular, to believe that securing the border ought to be a priority – and that any “path to citizenship” scheme can’t be seriously considered until the border and its steady supply of new illegal immigrants is shut off.

Geraghty makes a larger, and well-taken, point about how there are different ways to express ideas – from clinical discourse to gonzo stunt videos – and the Right would be wise to emulate the Left by using all of them.  In fact, to take his reasoning further, I’d say conservatives even more reason to pull a few attention-getting gags, because they simply cannot count on receiving all the attention they need from the mainstream media, and have nothing approaching the Left’s ability to insinuate its ideas into our ubiquitous entertainment media.

Which leads me to quibble a bit with the paragraph cited above.  I’m not entirely confident that Americans universally recognize the importance of border security.  Let me rephrase that: I’m not sure they’re as worked-up as they need to be, in order to get politicians to treat the matter as a national priority.

There are few major issues in which the disconnect between the average voter and our political class is so pronounced.  Before Obama’s manufactured border crisis exploded in the news, polls rarely captured immigration ranked among the top-ten voter concerns.  (After Obama threw out his amnesty bait and lured a couple hundred thousand people across that porous border – don’t let yourself be fooled by statistics that only count the unaccompanied minors! – immigration suddenly became the Number One issue in polls.)  

That’s because most people have a fairly straightforward notion of what good immigration policy should look like: a secure border, a reasonable process for legal immigration, internal enforcement mechanisms that will at least deport the most blatantly obvious or criminal border violators.  This all seems so simple to the majority of voters… but their political class and media elites treat the situation as an impossibly convoluted, insoluble mess.

With that in mind, I doubt many people understand just how porous the border is.  Among other things, they don’t see pictures of it – the media certainly is not eager to publish photos that show swarms of people dashing across the desert in the middle of the night, or climbing over such border fence as our politicians have troubled themselves to build.  I think it really will rattle some cages when people see video of a guy wearing an Obama mask and military fatigues marching gaily across the border without a care in the world.  

Most of us – including, I would venture, most first- and second-generation legal immigrants – understand the general importance of protecting the border, at least well enough to keep violent criminals and terrorists away.  But there’s no way to do that without also instituting the measures that would be necessary to repel migratory waves of people who presumably wish to commit no further crimes beyond ignoring American immigration law.  The security issue really is simple, but we won’t have much success getting politicians to see it that way unless people get worked up about it.  Too many politicians still treat border protection as a bargaining chip – something they might be willing to consider addressing, if they’re paid off with various concessions to the rest of their agenda.  Let people see how easy it is for terrorists to stroll in, and the resulting outcry might just make a few politicians reconsider their priorities.