Great leaders, history has taught us, are often vilified in their own time and later exonerated as events vindicate their warnings. Churchill warned about the Nazi war machine when “peace in our time” was briefly fashionable. Reagan outraged the political class when he said that Soviet communism should be defeated, not contained. Similarly, events are already vindicating Donald Trump for his stand that national borders matter.
Since Trump descended the escalator in the summer of 2015, he has argued that a nation must protect itself from outside threats. Those threats could include violent criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers, and, as it happens, infectious diseases. For this and other apostasies, Trump’s opponents have all but anointed him the Prince of Darkness.
It took a global health crisis for the world to come around to Trump’s position. Borders are suddenly relevant again. Countries that once embraced globalism are now following Trump’s lead and protecting their borders. Allowing citizens of the world to enter a country with little or no scrutiny now seems like a quaint, naïve position of a bygone era.
The borders issue is not think-tank fodder—it is now a matter of life or death.
On January 31, the administration announced that it would temporarily bar foreigners from entering the United States if they had been to China within the previous 14 days. We may never know how many lives were saved by that action. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) credited this decision at the time for being “the single most consequential and valuable thing” done to combat coronavirus.
While the medical and manufacturing industries race to combat the virus domestically, Trump’s moves on border security have prevented potential new carriers from entering. The importance of this is incalculable.
In addition to restricting non-essential travel with Canada and Mexico, the United States will now expeditiously return aliens who cross between ports of entry or are otherwise not allowed to enter the country, as the facilities in which these aliens normally would be held cannot support quarantine for the time needed to assess potential cases.
The need for this action is necessitated by the crisis. A virus breakout in a detention facility would cause limited healthcare personnel and material resources to be diverted at a time when they are desperately needed elsewhere. We cannot allow this to happen.
These are judicious, responsible decisions in what is akin to a wartime environment. Still, the anti-borders mindset is blind to these realities. The moves on the southern border elicited the predictable condemnations from organizations whose sole purpose is to bring more foreign nationals into the United States.
“President Trump has been falsely scapegoating immigrant communities in the name of public safety since he came into office,” said Michelle Brané at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “This rule would unquestionably violate both domestic and international law and is an abdication of our moral responsibility to protect vulnerable people.”
Perhaps it is time for a remedial lesson in Civics 101. The highest “moral responsibility” of American leaders is to safeguard the American republic and its citizens. If the American economy is decimated and its population is ravaged by disease, there will be no refuge for the oppressed of the world to find shelter.
While the United States has a long and unparalleled history of helping the less fortunate around the world, it is done more out of noblesse oblige than any legal requirement. Open Borders Inc. will have to take a timeout while we deal with this worldwide emergency.
It has been said that the years preceding the September 11 attacks were America’s “holiday from history,” a time when the country was largely isolated from the problems of the world and existed in a state of naïve somnambulism. Coronavirus and its awful toll may be ending a second American holiday from history, one in which we entertained boutique notions like a world without borders and all the existential risks that come with it.
The new reality is that borders matter more than ever. We can embrace that reality and prosper, or live in denial and perish.