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Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for asking me to testify today regarding border security issues and options. My name is Demetrios Papademetriou, and I am the Co-Director of the Migration Policy Institute. I am testifying on behalf of myself and my colleague Deborah Meyers.
Our testimony is based on the research and recommendations in our book, Caught in the Middle: Border Communities in an Era of Globalization. This book will be publicly released on October 30th, and is the culmination of three years of work in a comparative project studying border communities and border management issues along five different international borders-U.S.-Canada, U.S.-Mexico, Germany-Poland, Russia-China, Russia-Kazakh. My remarks today, however, will focus on immigration and border issues that relate specifically to the U.S.'s neighbors and NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico.
Clearly, our book was written well before the tragic events of September 11 and report on research conceived about three years ago, carried out primarily in 1999, and completed last year. Yet, our insights and conclusions seem to us to be remarkably relevant today. We found a troubling lack of interest in applying even the most modest "effectiveness" test to our border management methodologies. In fact, we identified no particular effort, really, not particular interest, in the independent evaluation of the dominant control methodology. More tellingly, perhaps, we identified no attempt to think systematically about whether alternative responses to the challenge might have a greater or lesser chance of success. This slavish adherence to doing "more of the same" has had several perverse effects, including papering over the human effects of the new enforcement status quo and disregarding a policy's effects on the communities in which people live and through which goods and people pass-communities that have become the terrain where the manifestations of numerous conflicting perspectives play themselves out.
It is indeed the residents, businesses, and public and private institutions of border communities who most directly absorb the costs and benefits from both freer movement and greater controls. How do these communities navigate these issues, conflicting aims and all? What is life like for those who live and work at the interface of two countries? What is the local perspective on the movement of people and goods that pass through a community; does anyone else care about it? Does the perspective vary from one community, or one border, to another, and what accounts for any variance? What input, if any, do local communities have into national policies that ultimately affect them? What creative solutions have they found to address the challenge of such policies? Our effort attempted to shed some light on all of these questions.
Two points of departure dominated our conceptualization of the research project. The first was a clear sense that, left on their own, national governments and bureaucracies would do what comes most naturally to them: national governments will reassert control (particularly when feeling a degree of threat) and the relevant agencies will seek to convert such fears into additional resources, growing in size and influence. The effectiveness of the effort, however, seems to have only an uncertain association with the resources committed to border controls. Somewhat paradoxically, saturation policing and other forms of vigorous control seem to produce numerous perverse by-products, including a boom in official corruption and the growth in powerful black markets in virtually all aspects relating to the defeat of the control effort-from false documents to sophisticated smuggling networks. (Notwithstanding that tendency, our research found local cross-border initiatives continue to occur, even flourish, under all of these scenarios.)
The second was an idea that many border communities had become concerned with the fact that decisions that affect them directly on issues of borders and their management were being made without their participation. In an era of pronounced devolution, much of it admittedly more rhetorical than real, that decision locus-exclusively in the national capitals, with little pretense of consultation with local communities-struck us as worthy of further investigation. We suspected that the continuing function of borders as the physical location where real and symbolic expressions of state sovereignty meet probably explained why domestic decisions about them are seemingly made "unilaterally" by central governments.
Our overall conclusion? Unless the politics make it absolutely impossible, governments are better off working cooperatively and with the market to expand the legal means for the entry of their nationals in other states' territories. Acknowledging the economic and social facts on the ground and regulating a practice thoughtfully, stand a much better chance of achieving important public-policy goals than denying the legitimacy of some of the reasons for the practice's existence and trying to stamp it out through force.
A state performs an array of inspection functions at the border, many of which are clearly essential to good government and all which serve some public interest. This fact, however, does not obviate the need to ask whether the functions are all essential, whether they can be done only at the border, whether the manner in which they are done is the most appropriate one, and how the lives of border communities are affected by how functions are delivered. Most importantly, perhaps, and like most governmental functions that are both very costly and intrusive, the delivery of the functions itself demands that the relevant agencies meet stringent effectiveness and accountability standards. The research considered three broad policy questions:
1. How do the NAFTA partners perceive and conduct their border "inspection" responsibilities?
2. Are such inspections done in the most effective and efficient manner (and consistent with other important public policy priorities)?
3. What are the effects of these actions on the life of communities that straddle NAFTA's international borders?
Maintaining a focus on border community life as a consistent priority across all research sites, we focused on three outcomes.
1. Cataloguing and understanding existing local initiatives toward greater cooperation between border communities located on different sides of an international border;
2. uunderstanding better the similarities and differences in that regard among such communities; and
3. Extracting and contextualizing "best practices" in local self-management with regard to cross-border matters.
Field research results were then used to assess and develop a perspective on the state of integration within North America, and particularly within the North American Free Trade Agreement space, and to articulate a vision for such integration in fifteen or twenty years.
The project's principal research hypothesis was that at the local level, communities on both sides of a common border were thinking (and when allowed, acting) creatively and often collaboratively in response to common problems and in pursuit of common interests. Although the degree of cooperation and the motives for cooperation vary significantly across borders and border regions, in almost all instances examples of cooperation were found to exist-thus validating the hypothesis.
The following are among the most robust general findings of the research.
1. The interests of border regions typically receive inadequate and at times unwelcome attention from national governments. This is typically due to the fact that central governments think of their responsibilities toward borders within the framework of "reasons of state." The post-September 11 environment makes this point more starkly than we could have hypothesized. Such thinking, especially when "security" concerns enter the mix, reinforces the tendency of bureaucracies to make decisions unilaterally and leads to the devaluation of local dynamics and preferences. For instance, along the U.S.-Mexico border, anxiety about drugs and unauthorized immigration has led to fortifications and an active policing framework that gives short shrift to the border's other principal function: facilitation of legal traffic and trade.
2. National government policies toward border control tend to be inconsistent, even erratic, with patterns often ranging from inattention to the "wrong kind" of attention. Both extremes kindle discontent and, except in emergencies, both can generate calls for more autonomy on transborder issues of greatest concern to a locality or region. Communities along many of the borders we studied desire greater autonomy. In many instances, however, communities make fundamentally contradictory demands. For instance, along the U.S. southwest border, many U.S. communities, while calling for greater order and security, simultaneously call for easier commercial access to consumers and to workers from across the border.
3. Most central governments use symbols and language that reinforce the imagery of borders as "zones of exclusion." One is often struck by the lengths to which some governments go to establish and demarcate their state's distinctness and identity-from the display of massive flags to the creation of a no-man's-land and the building of actual fortifications. Such views, however, often contrast sharply with those of the locals, who are much more likely to consider the border a place of commercial, social, and cultural interface, part of an often single community-some of which just happens to be in a foreign political jurisdiction. Many communities along both U.S. borders feel (and act) this way.
4. The adoption of a model of tight controls and the empowerment of border officials to exclude people with little accountability have become breeding grounds for arbitrary behavior by national government personnel; they also create more opportunities for corruption and encourage the growth of market forces designed to defeat border controls. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than along the U.S. southwest border, although behavior at other borders follows the same general rule. As an example of arbitrariness, U.S. immigration officials at different crossings seem to interpret their authority to exclude inadmissible entrants quite differently, resulting in dramatically different outcomes. With regard to official corruption, international smuggling networks are now widely thought to be able to corrupt government officials virtually anywhere.
5. Border communities typically approach both the challenges and the opportunities of deeper cross-border relations in a remarkably pragmatic fashion. Communities along the U.S.-Canada border typify this behavior, although below the radar screen of newspaper headlines and the rhetoric of politicians this is now a nearly universal phenomenon along uncontested borders. In fact, as cross-border contacts increase, local officials from both sides, in partnership with business interests, religious organizations, and community-based and other nongovernmental actors, seek to play increasingly significant roles in the ongoing discussions about and the making and implementation of policies that affect their lives. Clearly, not all communities are equally active in this regard and few are successful in influencing their fate in measurable ways. However, the existence of institutional frameworks that encourage and formalize input, can make a significant difference in outcomes. Two other factors also facilitate better cross-border understanding: the growth in cross-border civil society contacts, and official efforts to consider local perspectives along borders.
6. Business and commercial interests are the drivers of better cross-border relations across all research sites. In fact, some observers argue that many border communities share a single business culture in what often amounts to symbiotic, even single, markets. This holds true regardless of the degree to which business contacts are formal or informal. Not everyone shares the enthusiasm of commercial interests for more cross-border openness, however, and, as a result, the vision of cross-border relations promoted by business interests can complicate matters when it is in conflict either with that of other local interests or with national priorities and regulations. Such conflicts are further exacerbated when national regulations, and/or the way in which they are implemented by representatives of national bureaucracies at the border, are internally contradictory or are thought to be at significant variance with the broader local economic life. At times, local communities seek to take initiatives to redress the perceived imbalance.
7. There is a remarkable degree of community-devised cross-border cooperation on issues such as public health, access to education, environmental protection, joint regional planning, and law enforcement. In most instances, such cooperation seems to be unaffected by the ups and downs of the national conversation on borders and, more precisely, the conversation within the national capital. Local concerns about the tone and flavor of these conversations have been heightened by a growing appreciation that discussions about borders inside national capitals seem always either to over- or under-react to the real issues. Community views, on the other hand, are typically closer to the facts on the ground than is political rhetoric, and are better attuned to local needs and nuances. These range from a finer sense of increasingly common destinies and, perhaps to a lesser degree, human and ethnic solidarity.
8. Investments in the economic and social development of border regions and cities are at best an intermittent affair and tend to be inadequate even in the best of circumstances. Models of how to invest in a border region include the distribution of significant funds through supranational institutions (the EU "Euro-regions" model) and the potentially very significant U.S. investments in transportation corridors which allow investments in Canada and Mexico. A third potential model is the embryonic U.S. development efforts at its southwest border by the Interagency Task Force for the Economic Development of the Southwest Border, impaneled by the Clinton Administration. A final model comes from the Pacific Northwest, where remarkably well-organized cross-border public/private efforts have been able to make considerable progress in securing funding from state, local, and U.S. federal sources to pursue the objective of adapting national policies to the region's unique requirements and opportunities.
9. There is an increasing array of experiments with a variety of "extra-territorial" arrangements designed to facilitate commercial and socio-cultural interests. For instance, the United States has experimented with permitting Mexican border inspection functions to be performed deep within U.S. territory during the Christmas season (in order to reduce delays at the border as large numbers of Mexicans return home for the holidays). The United States and Mexico have reciprocally expanded the zone for the less restricted movement of Mexicans in Arizona to 65 miles (and for Americans into Sonora for 100 kilometers), mostly as a means of encouraging access by Mexican nationals to U.S. commercial establishments. Finally, in most major Canadian airports, the United States has a deeply institutionalized pre-clearance system for customs, immigration, and associated agencies for travelers to the United States, and together with Canada it is taking the first tentative steps toward sharing inspection facilities and related items.
10. Next to being given short shrift by national authorities and the lack of resources, lack of "capacity" may be the border communities' greatest problem. It may be difficult to overemphasize this point. The capacity gap spans the gamut of activities along borders. It is clearly more pronounced in poorer countries, in remote border communities, and in the communities most recently delegated political power. It also exists, however, in communities lacking sufficient physical capacity to handle the ever-expanding traffic. The need for capacity building goes beyond governance and beyond the public sector, including the fields of education and health services and the development of a culture of civil society that can hold the government accountable for its decisions and can play a part in the development of a broader base of social activism.
The rich and intricate tapestry of complex interdependence stitched together by the case studies in this volume makes clear that generalizations and, ultimately, policy recommendations need to exercise extreme care not to oversimplify. The case studies also make clear, however, that there is a great deal more going with cross-border communities than many analysts have suspected and, more to the point, than either national leaders or the national press have bothered to recognize.
What, then, might one recommend that is consistent with and moves toward the more open and cooperative future the research results discussed in this volume imply? We are making three overall recommendations.
1. Border controls should be conceptualized as a means to an end, rather than as the ultimate policy goal portrayed in political rhetoric and reflected in bureaucratic initiatives. Put differently, the explicit end-goal of regulatory and enforcement efforts at the border should be to manage the border effectively enough to prepare the ground for the serious conversation about how best jointly to accomplish each neighbor's principal public policy priorities while allowing more organic forms of integration to proceed at a reasonable pace. One implication of this recommendation is that the current set of discussions and initiatives regarding the NAFTA partners' internal borders should continue to proceed roughly along the paths they have been following in the last year or so; this must be accompanied, however, by an explicit reconceptualization and articulation of the desirable end point. Focusing squarely on the greater use of technology and on management innovations that improve both facilitation and regulation and control must be part and parcel of this process-but, again, they must not be the end points of the NAFTA relationships.
For the U.S.-Canada border, continuing along the path of the last year or so but with a re-conceptualization of the end point means ever-closer and more organic cooperation, a more explicit focus on understanding and addressing differences, and far greater experimentation. For the U.S.-Mexico border, this means that Mexico's deeper engagement of the United States over the last year or so must not just continue in earnest but in fact must accelerate further, and it must shift gears. This bilateral relationship is too important for either country to become distracted by the differences between them. Although that engagement's centerpiece is the migration relationship, the border cannot be left too far behind-if for no other reason than that it is deeply intertwined with the migration issue.
2. All three national governments must show uncharacteristic adeptness in adapting their border management and enforcement practices to local conditions. While in the U.S. context this recommendation may raise important field-management concerns about the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (which has proven unable to rein in its field managers and deliver many of its functions with consistency), the principle nonetheless remains a powerful one. Whenever possible, field managers should be encouraged to work in tandem with local communities to deliver the various components of the immigration function in a manner that is sensitive to and builds upon the particular circumstances of an area.
Currently, hardly any border communities have either a strategy or a mechanism for building their capacity to aggregate and articulate their interests. (The U.S.- Canada border may be the only near-exception.) Developing such strategies and investing in mechanisms-such as a regular annual or biennial meeting of public and private-sector interests along and across a single border-could address this weakness. Such a regular forum would institutionalize the exchange of views, facilitate the process of learning about each other's interests, priorities, successes, and failures, and offer an opportunity to build relationships and impanel issue-focused groups, as appropriate, to promote common interests.
Central governments also should initiate regular, systematic opportunities for local interests to be brought into the decision-making process about issues that affect them. Such an initiative would address a second systemic weakness of the status quo-the lack of a formal mechanism for communities to convey their interests to the appropriate central government policy-making bodies in a manner that is timely and thus enhances the prospects of a fair hearing.
3. There should not be a one-size-fits-all approach to the issues at hand-not even along a single border. History, topography, economy, and the level of local engagement with the issue (both that of the public sector and that of the for-profit and not-for-profit private sectors), lead to enormous variability in the delivery of border inspection functions, as do differences in outlooks and management and the personal skills of the local managers of national bureaucracies. These differences demand, and sometimes in fact result in, sensitive and thoughtful approaches that respect and take advantage of differences. These approaches, however, still need to be informed by a single policy frame of reference and must reflect the levels of shared goals and objectives between the two countries-that is, building upon, rather than undermining, the increasingly seamless cooperation between the two countries in a vast array of policy areas.
The importance of policy clarity and, more importantly, of policies that have a real purpose-an end-goal or a vision-cannot be overemphasized, nor can its absence, from virtually every border this project has studied, be more pronounced. It is, in our view, the most fundamental explanation for the relative state of confusion about the management of borders, and for the inconsistency with which it is proceeding. As a result of this failure of imagination, states do not seem able to learn from and successfully incorporate innovations in managing borders, or in testing different management models and alternative methodologies.
We call on the three NAFTA partners to commence initially domestic processes to develop a strategic plan for changing the terms of the debate about the border relationship with their immediate neighbors. Whatever is agreed to must proceed from the assumption that if negotiations are to succeed, they must recommend activities that are gradual and evolutionary, and in each instance take into account the interests of the affected communities. This implies much deeper levels of national government/state (provincial) and local government cooperation. It also implies far greater and more systematic consultations with local stakeholders than any of the three national governments is either familiar with or perhaps comfortable in undertaking.
Our vision imagines the NAFTA's internal borders gradually (and in temporal and substantive terms, unevenly) becoming irrelevant to the point where their abolition could proceed without any measurable losses in any of the important security, revenue collection, and even "identity" priorities of each partner, at least relative to the results of the present course of action. The vision also imagines small actual additional losses in "sovereignty" for any of the partners. Any such "losses," in fact, would in our view be offset by substantial democratic surpluses for all three NAFTA partners.
Such a vision could be best approached from two distinct, yet ultimately converging, tracks. Both require greater vertical and horizontal consciousness-raising and greater and more systematic input by local communities and their institutions-public and private. The first track focuses on continuing the multiplicity of contacts, the deepening of bilateral engagement, and the focus on pragmatic problem-solving that has been the operational model for the past few years-if intermittently so. The second track should focus on the kind of North America the citizens of the three countries have a legitimate right to expect in the not-too-distant future-and on how best to achieve it.
Some of this latter track's required elements will of necessity be "defensive" in nature; that is, they must "protect" citizens from unwanted activities, practices, and products. Other elements will be forward-looking and will be advancing broader citizen interests in terms of prosperity, adherence to rules, protection of rights, and fundamental conformity with the principles of humanitarianism. In its totality, the proposed vision should hold the promise for doing better by most people in each of the NAFTA partners along most of these goals.
Such a vision should include the following among its main elements:
1. Greater security from illegal activities and unwanted products from outside the NAFTA space-including terrorism, illegal immigration, drugs, and more;
2. Protection from illegal activities and undesirable products that may be found inside the NAFTA region that will be no less reliable than what each NAFTA partner enjoys now;
3. The nearly seamless movement of legitimate goods and people seeking to cross internal NAFTA borders; and
4. Protection from the political ups and downs (the political "mood swings," as it were) of one NAFTA partner or another and, perhaps more importantly, from bureaucratic "ad-hocism," affecting the vital interests of the other partners.
Is our vision realistic-particularly in the post-September 11 environment? We think so. Will critics think that it is realistic? Probably not. In many ways, there are few things easier than shooting down a vision. The three NAFTA capitals are full of people who know how to say "no" a million ways. (Bureaucracies of all types are particularly adept at saying "no" to changes in their mission or culture. Ultimately, since it is bureaucracies that will implement any vision, working with them will bear more fruit than working against them.) Getting to "yes," however, requires great political courage and uncommon qualities of leadership. Nor can a vision of a different future immediately provide fully satisfactory answers to all the questions-legitimate or not-that one may pose. Realizing the vision proposed here will be rocky and the outcome frequently will seem uncertain. Furthermore, as with the early stages of any ambitious new initiative, there will be winners and losers-and each NAFTA partner will have to give priority to developing and implementing, policies that address the concerns of those who will likely lose at the beginning.
Integration is a gradual process involving a myriad of incremental steps and the building of trust. To begin, we suggest that each border inspection agency be required to analyze each one of the functions it performs at the border along four lines: First, must each of its functions be done only at the border? Second, what are the costs and benefits of doing that function at the border versus doing it elsewhere? Third, can any of its functions be performed by an inspector from a sister agency? Fourth, can any of the functions in question be performed (after proper negotiations, training, etc.) by an inspector from the other country?
We list below some concrete steps in the process of rethinking border management. We expect these initiatives to be tested first with Canada but expect that, over time, those that pass the tests, would be gradually "exported" to the U.S.-Mexico border.
" Customs could perform many of its inspections and collect all applicable duties at the point where the cargo is loaded in North America, employing available technology to "seal" the container(s) and transferring all the relevant information about the cargo electronically to any other inspection point.
" Customs could employ "risk-management" methodologies for performing inspection functions and re-deploy some of the newly "released" personnel to joint investigative task forces with sister agencies from either side of the border in order to uncover violations of various types.
" One NAFTA partner could handle inspections and the collection of tariffs on behalf of the others or could do so jointly-but always once-at the initial point in which a cargo from a non-NAFTA country enters NAFTA space. Similarly, progress should be made on the "unified port management" concept for its potential to use resources most efficiently while improving both service and the quality of inspections.
" Border customs inspections could be done only once-by either national customs service-so as to accommodate variances in staffing, physical infrastructure, and topographical idiosyncrasies.
" The United States could copy the Canadian model of having only one agency staff the primary inspection lanes, rather than having both Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. All necessary inspection agencies would still retain a presence at the border to perform secondary inspections.
" Existing systems of customs brokers and private bondsmen could be utilized to a far greater extent and given both greater power and greater responsibility-and, by extension, made more accountable (and penalized more severely) for failures of either omission or commission.
" The private sector could be relied upon even more consequentially in areas ranging from technology to the building of better infrastructure wherever it might be needed, through liberalized public-private partnerships and pay-as-you-go projects.
" The INS could handle all third-country (non-NAFTA) immigration controls at an individual's first point of entry into NAFTA space. Pre-clearance technology and intelligence cooperation are in many instances already significant enough to expect that this method can be accelerated without any loss of control relative to the status quo. In fact, airport inspections are more accurate and can be more efficient than virtually any system of inspections at land borders, where visa and identity checks, even after September 11.
" Canada and the United States could agree to a common visa regime for the widest band of countries each country could accommodate and exercise much greater care in the issuance of visas for the citizens of countries for which visa-free entry could not be agreed to by the other country.
" Canada and the United States initially, the U.S. and Mexico at a later point, and, eventually, all three NAFTA partners and contiguous neighbors, could gradually liberalize the movement of each other's nationals, thus freeing their inspection resources to focus more on non-NAFTA nationals. (It is worth noting that despite having reached absolute freedom of movement, intra-EU migration by EU citizens is miniscule, at between seven and eight million persons, or about two percent of the EU's population.) Potential exploitation of a country's social support systems by nationals of another NAFTA country can be addressed up-front in a variety of ways, including requiring departure within a specific time period if a job or other means of support hasn't been found or by continuing the social protection mechanisms of the country of origin for the initial few months after entry.
These recommendations are not made in a vacuum. Some tentative steps toward the directions recommended here are already being taken, the technology is readily available, and the large business sector that accounts for most of the transborder initiatives and energy is thought to be fully primed for cooperating in return for more timely and predictable results. A vision, and political will, seem to be the major missing ingredients.
We must also note that our vision has no room for supranational bureaucracies a la Brussels. We believe instead in an integration process that is organic and is thus built from the bottom up-and from the periphery to the center, that is, from border regions to capital cities, differing dramatically from the top-down approach the EU practices even today. Europe's experience nonetheless reminds us that progress on even the most intractable issues comes down to creativity, leadership, local input, an overarching vision, liberal amounts of common sense, and a willingness to experiment and learn from others.
Few issues in the international system are as complex as those surrounding borders. As this volume demonstrates, the roots of that complexity include but go beyond the reality that borders are the most direct physical manifestation of "statehood" and sovereignty. They also are inextricably linked with competing policy priorities that simultaneously expect border inspection systems to allow the swift and efficient passage of legitimate people and products while unerringly stopping illegitimate traffic and undesirable products. At their very root, however, borders and their "management" or "protection," however much these last functions may have changed in recent years, are first and foremost political concepts, and can only be addressed politically.
What relationships, then, might one anticipate within the NAFTA-space in the years ahead? Canada's understandable preoccupation with its U.S. relationship will continue to motivate that country to ensure by any means necessary that the economic relationship continues to grow in ways that guarantee the prosperity of its people. It is in fact our contention that, substantively at least, the U.S.-Canada border is likely to disappear before any politician finds the political courage to negotiate its removal. Symbolic issues, of course, will need to be addressed, as will the significant strengthening of police functions both along the outside perimeter of North America and-an important policy development-in the interior of each country, an intensification that is already occurring.
Mexico, buoyed by and ready to draw on the democratic dividend created by Mr. Fox's defeat of the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the 2000 presidential elections, has found the confidence to enter into bilateral negotiations with the United States about a tough binational "bargain" on migration and border issues. That bargain, whenever the post-September 11 climate allows it to move forward, would offer Mexicans much greater access to the part of the U.S. economy and labor markets in which it is already a major player in return for far greater and much more active cooperation in addressing the primarily "law-and-order" issues of concern to the United States. Mexico's ability to deliver on the responsibilities it would undertake under such a bargain would in turn determine the pace at which it may begin to catch up with the U.S. treatment of the U.S.-Canada border.
Finally, U.S. interest in the North American "project" envisioned here ("acceptance" may be a more appropriate term than "interest") is likely to be tepid until it is convinced that it can accomplish its own policy priorities less expensively, more efficiently, and much more effectively than under the status quo. In that regard, it is the limits of thicker and infinitely more expensive unilateral controls that may persuade the United States to consider truly alternative ways of dealing with these issues.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the subcommittee: Ensuring our safety requires a comprehensive, system-wide response that goes well beyond the jurisdiction of this subcommittee and includes not only the INS but each and every public agency with which foreign entrants interact. Our nation's security from foreign nationals who may wish us ill in the months and years ahead rests on the simultaneous and sustained pursuit of several initiatives.
This is an extraordinary task under any circumstances; it becomes even more so, however, given our record as a people of a generally low attention span on matters large and small. This tendency makes it all the more important that we resist the twin impulsions of (1) throwing money at the problem (this problem is too large and it can "break the bank" rather quickly) and (2) rushing to create new and cumbersome data systems that may offer only marginal benefits to the common objective of making our country more secure while having enormous long term costs on who we are as a nation.
Based on our research, we believe that, over time, we can achieve many more of our goals working together with the intelligence gathering and law-enforcement agencies of our allies in this "war on terrorism," and particularly with those of our North American partners-Canada and Mexico than we can do unilaterally. Seamless cooperation in protecting our common North American space, what some people now call "perimeter defense," is a goal worth pursuing at a pace and with as much vigor as prudence and the capabilities of each of our partners allow.
Ultimately, Mr. Chairman, we can protect ourselves better through "external" controls, that is, actions that we might take before an undesirable alien gains entry into our country than "internal" controls, that is, measures taken once one has been admitted. Put differently, keeping undesirable individuals out of the US through "front gate controls" (that is, the visa issuance and border inspection regimes), is both easier and more effective than attempting to catch up with such persons after they enter the US. Focusing most of our additional resources on prevention measures demands that we treat our contiguous neighbors as the assets that they are (and can be) than as the liabilities that some seek to make them.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear before you and the Subcommittee.
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