McLean column: We need border security — and Mexico’s friendship |

McLean column: We need border security — and Mexico’s friendship

Full disclosure, I like Mexico and Mexicans. I grew up in New Mexico and Colorado with Mexican friends. I speak Spanish and have worked in Mexico. I even served with the Mexican Navy during an exchange cruise.

I think we need secure borders. I believe we need to enforce our laws on immigration, including visa overstay. I am totally in favor of serious vetting of anyone who comes in from any country with histories of terrorism. It is just common sense. Having worked in an embassy and having obtained U.S. visas for a myriad of co-workers and a student visa for an Ethiopian girl, I understand the normal visa process.

It is troubling that a federal judge ruled that students on a student visa who had returned to their home countries in the Middle East were to be exempted from serious vetting prior to their return. The student visa is one of the easiest of all visas to obtain. There should be concern regarding radicalization of students in universities all over the world.

The Somali terrorist from the Ohio State attack last November was a seemingly “self radicalized” refugee. However, it would be naïve to assume that there are no efforts underway by ISIS and other groups to radicalize students on campuses all over the world. The current leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has a Ph.D. from the Islamic University in Baghdad. It would seem logical that he became radicalized during his university years.

In light of the destruction at Berkeley while “peacefully” protesting a gay, Jewish, conservative speaker, we demonstrably have sufficient homegrown radicals of our own. We don’t need to import more.

However, regarding Mexico, we created an attractive nuisance by not enforcing our immigration laws for many years. There are few of us who can honestly say that we have not benefited from some service provided by undocumented workers. We need to address the situation in a fair manner. Deport those who are convicted criminals. Be reasonable with the rest.

We need a friend on the southern border. It would not be productive to push Mexico into a corner. Machismo is alive and well in Mexico. Anti-American passions can easily be stroked.

In 1848, the United States took 55 percent of Mexico’s territory, including Colorado, in the Mexican-American war. That war was started by the U.S. as a means of obtaining land to support westward expansion and justified by “manifest destiny.” This is still a sore point with Mexico.

Ulysses S. Grant, a lieutenant in that war, said, “I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” Today some Mexicans still view the U.S. as an aggressive bully.

According to a Pew Research study, since 2005 more Mexicans have returned to Mexico than have immigrated to the U.S. During my recent trip I met several Mexicans who had lived, worked or gone to school in the U.S. and had returned to Mexico. Thus with a very limited sample, the Pew study was confirmed for me.

There are still several million Mexicans in the U.S. without proper documents. It was refreshing when President Trump recently said, “We are gonna deal with DACA with heart.” He went on to say that the immigration laws on the books were very “rough.” With the seemingly reasonable approach to DACA, hopefully he will deal with those young people’s parents and other immigrants fairly.

Republicans are concerned that if those immigrants are left in the country, they will vote Democrat. Democrats push for open borders and a quick, clear path to citizenship because they want those votes. Politicians of both parties will do almost anything to stay in power, with a few exceptions.

We need a compromise to deal with the problem. I would suggest that we first secure the borders. Next provide a visa for those who have not been involved in serious crime. This visa would be a working visa but less than a green card. In order to obtain that visa, the immigrants would be required to perform community service of 100 hours for each year here and pay estimated income taxes and Social Security for the time spent here. Those payments would be paid over time. There would be no path to citizenship or a very difficult path. Military service with an honorable discharge would count as the community service.

We need to revise our legal immigration program to reinstate an improved Bracero program to provide more Mexicans with legal temporary visas. Mexico should have a special allotment of visas, as we do need them as friends. If Mexicans have an increased temporary special visa program, they would have little incentive to enter illegally.

Regarding the wall, we should help Mexico build a wall on its southern border since more undocumented workers are coming through Mexico than Mexicans are coming here. It is up to us on our border to enforce our laws. If the wall is the best way to do that, we need to pay for it. We could probably pay for it with the increased tax income generated by an enlightened visa program.

Roland McLean, an Aspen Glen resident, is a University of Colorado graduate, Navy veteran and retiree after more than 30 years in international construction. His column appears on the fourth Thursday of each month. Reach him at

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