Saturday, December 8, 2007

Merchants Whining

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains." The merchants along the Mexican border are complaining about how enforcing our immigration laws, and making sure that we aren't letting terrorists into the country, is impairing their bottom line. From the December 8, 2007 Idaho Statesman:
Unlike past Christmas holidays, Adriana Aguilar won't be joining the festive get-togethers this year with friends and family just across the Texas-Mexico line in Nuevo Laredo.

Aguilar, a U.S. citizen living in this bustling border town, simply isn't willing to endure what she expects will be new, agonizingly long waits at security checkpoints along the border.

Stepped-up inspections of border crossers is slowing the ever-growing lines of traffic at the Laredo points of entry. And it could get worse. In less than two months, U.S. citizens will no longer be allowed to enter the country just by announcing their citizenship - they'll have to prove it.

The changes are raising concerns that people like Aguilar will stay away from the border, damaging economies on both sides. Laredo officials say 40 percent of local retail activity depends on cross-border traffic.

Maria Luisa O'Connell, president of the Phoenix-based Border Trade Alliance, said border cities are concerned they'll lose retail sales tax.

"Instead of choosing to travel to come shopping and have dinner four times, they're going to choose to do it only once," she said. "It's a huge income concern for cities in the U.S. ... What we're worried about is the perception that people will say, 'Why bother?' if it is going to be hard to cross."

The Texas Border Coalition, a group of local officials, asked President Bush in a letter last month to do something about the long wait times before Christmas.

Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, the coalition's chairman, said he would encourage the government to operate like any commercial entity and move the lines along: "I'd do everything to be sure the customers come back and visit my store."
Except that a nation isn't "any commercial entity." There are national security issues at stake. And yes, if you have gotten used to just smiling and saying, "U.S. citizen" it is certainly a nuisance to have a passport when crossing a national boundary. But to bring back a phrase occasionally used when some people whined during World War II: "You know, there is a war on."

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