The noise coming out of the Presidents Trump-Putin Singapore summit, and the furor—both real and manufactured—about family separation, has pushed aside critical debate that will determine our country’s future. The pressures moving us toward the brink, however, have not stopped; and that must change.
A recent Fox News show explored whether the “abolish ICE” movement is becoming mainstream Democratic Party policy. Partisans from both sides of the debate weighed in, and while the Democrat activist pushed back on that notion, he just as vehemently opposed ICE’s border enforcement activities. I wished the moderator asked him if, as his arguments implied, he and others believe that those who came to this country illegally have a legitimate role here, including the right to vote; and that any activity by the United States to prevent others from coming here illegally would be morally wrong and outside the scope of our rights; because this is in fact the effect of the positions he and other Democrats are taking.
As someone who has seen the impact of open borders and lack of border enforcement, I can state unequivocally that nothing less than our national integrity is at stake. Anyone who favors the sort of open border policies that find excuses for individual incursions in the name of some false human rights claim needs to come on my next mission along India’s borders with Nepal and Bangladesh. And I should know about human rights as I have been placing my personal safety on the line for them since the turn of the century. Anyone who believes that policies abetting open borders are not a dagger in our national heart should see the damage they caused and the international conflicts that they enable.
My education began in February 2008. I was in Panitanki, a small village on the Indian side of the India-Nepal border, less than 50 miles south of Darjeeling—where they grow the famous tea. I was taking a much needed break from my fight to stop the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh; and my local associates brought me there so I could see India’s challenges firsthand. Not unlike streets in border towns elsewhere, those in Panitanki were lined with small shops and itinerant peddlers hawking every sort of ware, legal and otherwise. One shop was selling a plastic tote bag with the words Mazel Tov in Hebrew. How it got there is anyone’s guess since I was probably the only Jew ever to visit the town. Panitanki’s main road ends in a bridge over the Mechi River, which forms the border between India and Nepal. As we got closer, the goods got more expensive, and the incoming traffic got more transparent. A steady stream of trucks, covered wagons, and men carrying large packages on their heads crossed freely into India. My Bengali colleagues would point to one and say “Arms,” to another and say “Drugs.” “That other one,” they‘d say, “has counterfeit banknotes. A big smuggling business.” We were in the Chicken’s Neck, a 15 mile wide strip of Indian territory, bordered by Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. The area is notorious for the sort of smuggling we observed, and it is a known entry point for Islamist and Communist terrorists into India.
The illegal activity is so open that it did not raise so much as an eyebrow among the armed members of India’s Border Security Force—until, that is, they saw me with my video camera. As we passed a pile of sandbags, two soldiers emerged brandishing their rifles. “Put away your camera,” they ordered, and said they were confiscating it. But I refused, asking them what they were afraid I would find. We went back and forth for a time, knowing that they did not want this to end up on CNN or on the Foreign Minister’s desk; and we eventually worked out a deal. They agreed not to take my camera, and I agreed not to take any more pictures. We moved toward the bridge, but there was a problem. Indians and other South Asians passed freely across the border but as an American, I needed a visa from the Nepalese government. So the soldiers refused to let me pass, though third country nationals frequently take rickshaws or other conveyances across the border without any difficulty. A discussion ensued, and we established that the border was in the exact center of the bridge and that if I kept my camera packed and did not go “even one millimeter” into Nepal; we could proceed. But the soldiers made sure to tell me that if I violated either of those conditions, they would arrest me and confiscate my camera.
So we moved forward under the soldiers’ watchful eyes, which were decidedly more concerned with us than with the open flow of contraband into their country. As we did, it became clear why they were, and also why the soldiers did not want me taking pictures. The flow of dangerous contraband across the border was heavy, continuous, and apparent to anyone with eyes, as was their lack of response to it. It was also the dry season, and from the middle of the bridge, I saw people crossing the dried river bed on either side of the bridge, most carrying large parcels with them. They were in no hurry and did not seem to fear any official intervention.
But what I saw in Panitanki is only the tip of the iceberg. When I first started coming to West Bengal, the ruling party was the Left Front, or the Communist Party of India. Its heavy-handed administration of the state’s economic life had been progressively crushing it for three decades—so badly that it ignored the threat from Bangladesh. There were very few effective control points along the more than 2,500 mile border, and I should know because I tested it myself. In 2011, the people of West Bengal ended thirty years of communist rule, electing the Trinamol Congress Party (TMC) and its strongwoman, Mamata Banerjee, who continues as the state’s undisputed leader today.
But if anything, matters on the border with Bangladesh grew worse. A significant element in Mamata’s coalition is the Muslim vote, including illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. For the past seven years, the TMC has protected that vote bank by preventing effective action on the border and enabling large numbers of Bangladeshis to settle in India. I have been shown a hotel in downtown Kolkata, the state’s capital, where new illegal migrants are brought to rest a few days before receiving their “assignment.” I have watched while illegals cross the border both day and night, often with the connivance of local police; and talked with small voluntary organizations whose missions have been overwhelmed by the lawlessness these policies have made routine.
I have watched villages that had been inhabited by Hindus and Muslims for decades now become devoid of Hindus who were forced out or merely “convinced” to leave. Every year, as I made my rounds through the villages, I would see more Temples closed and Hindu residents exiting. I have been in areas like Deganga, where Hindus were victims of sustained violence; and I spent time at the last Hindu home in the Diamond Harbor area, where a lone young woman and her disabled brother fight both attackers and the West Bengal authorities. In the past three years, I have seen ersatz ISIS headquarters in Kolkata; and the radical religious party, Jamaat e’Islami, from Bangladesh now operates openly in Kolkata and even can boast that none other than Mamata Banerjee has appeared publicly to support it.
Further north in the Indian state of Assam, Bodo tribesman prepare for battle against Bangladeshi “infiltrators,” who they claim have degraded the natural environment, created a black market, and helped drive their children from the area. Bodos also described skirmishes over the past several years that started with attacks on their people by illegal immigrants.
In fact, anti-Hindu violence has become a regular feature of life in these states that abandoned any attempt to control their international borders. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has told them to expect more.
India’s physical integrity suffers from a deadly combination of poor laws that create an open border, and massive corruption that makes pretty much everything possible for those who aim to undermine that nation. The India-Nepal border is a conduit for illicit activity, including arms and drug smuggling, illegal and impoverished Nepalese immigrants, “mules” for the smuggling enterprises, and for terrorist infiltration. Bangladeshi terrorists and illegal immigrants have changed the demographics and way of life in northeast India. And not unlike our own situation here in the United States, illegals have become a political force that one party caters to as its own.
I do not sit with those who are concerned that our country might become “less white” or culturally different from what we were. It’s always been that way, and is part of who we are. Even Members of Congress raised both those fears a century ago as they tried to stop (legal) immigration from Eastern and Southern European; a wave that brought people who in fact changed the definition of culturally who was an American; a change for the better. I do, however, stand to defend our territorial integrity, the rule of law, and our right to enforce it; which the eastern Indian states seem to have abandoned to their existential detriment.
Americans need to look at what open borders have done to India before it’s too late and we awake to wonder when we lost our country.
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