THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN BORDER by Edward Alden

THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN BORDER

Terrorism, Immigration, and Security Since 9/11
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Sensible, carefully constructed roundup of recent border security measures by the U.S. government, analyzing their degrees of success and failure.

Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines how America went from the most open country in the world to a nation hostile and unwelcoming to foreigners. After 9/11, the country moved into crisis mode. The president, who had advocated easing immigration restrictions between America and Mexico, panicked: What didn’t the government know about who was in the country? John Ashcroft’s Justice Department put in place a wave of initiatives. The Absconder Apprehension Initiative cracked down on people overstaying their visas. Operation Condor scrutinized visa applicants from Muslim countries. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs and the Coast Guard merged under the Department of Homeland Security. The Hart-Rudman Commission, while toothless, underlined an essential paradox: The source of U.S. prosperity was also the source of its vulnerability. Chapters on “The Cops” and “The Technocrats” look in turn at those charged with detaining terrorism suspects (“once arrested,” the author notes, “many of the detainees fell into a black hole”) and those attempting to construct an information-driven “border of the future.” An especially illuminating chapter on “The Scapegoat” shows the blunt assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, Mary Ryan, blaming the FBI and CIA for failing to share intelligence about the backgrounds of people applying for visas, including several 9/11 hijackers who entered the country legally. The author brings home the sobering consequences of closing America’s borders. After 40 years of rapid growth, foreign-student enrollment in U.S. universities fell following 9/11 and did not pick up again until 2006; visa delays have made it harder to attract foreign investors; and the country faces a brain drain of foreign talent. While some of this material is painfully obvious, Alden’s cogent analysis forces a closer look at these developments.

A mild-mannered, useful study that informs without grinding an ax.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-155839-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2008