Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Lines Crossed

State of the Union: Eventually the border crisis really will become too big a problem to solve. 
(By David Peinado Romero/Shutterstock)

Illegal immigration increased significantly last month, according to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, with law enforcement catching roughly 130,000 border crossers. As managing editor Jude Russo observed in his column this week, “A population the size of New Haven’s, give or take, is coming over the border every month. Over the course of a year, that’s two Wyomings.” Those are numbers that are hard to grasp, as has been the crisis on the southern border. The mostly peaceful invasion, like 2020s mostly peaceful protests, has become old news—a new normal—that for most of the country is far too easy to ignore. 

But we cannot afford to ignore it, for, as Jason Richwine of the Center for Immigration Studies reminded us in a Wednesday essay, a country’s character is determined in large part by the people who make it up. Culture matters. Demographics, along with geography, are their own sort of destiny. “Politicians often speak of immigrants purely in economic terms—as workers in the labor market, or contributors to entitlement programs—but a country’s people define its culture,” Richwine wrote. “The U.S. has been relatively free and prosperous not because of random luck, but because it was settled by people whose culture is conducive to prosperity.”


That observation used to be common sense, but raises eyebrows today, because people who do not believe in national sovereignty have changed the way we talk, and therefore think, about our country, and what a country is. Borders play a role in nations far more vital than just identifying their territory on a map. Borders represent spheres of national self-determination. “Borders” are a metonym for a nation’s area of legal sovereignty; they imply that a people has a government capable of guarding the means of its own self-perpetuation. Borders allow a nation to gate-keep, because a nation does in fact owe its citizens more than its noncitizens, and so cares who falls into which category. To describe a government as being equally responsible to all people is to describe a global government.