Americans are accustomed to taking the territorial integrity of their country for granted. They do not sit directly astride a former empire that wants to regain its former glory and territory. The United States is not surrounded by countries that wish to destroy us. Nor are our territorial boundaries subject to international dispute, debate, or forceful efforts to change them.
Americans are accustomed to thinking about their country's territorial integrity, if at all, through the frame of military attack (Pearl Harbor, 9/11); and that is understandable.
Yet, that concern has helped to mask the development of two novel, complicated sets of national boundary issues. One has been brought about by globalization and mobility, the other reflects the realization of Marshall McLuhan's prescient term "global village" to describe the revolutionary communications interconnectedness that characterizes our modern circumstances.
The first reflects the enormous world-wide flow of migrants facilitated by modern travel, welcoming diasporas, and porous borders — including that of the United States. The second reflects the fact that migrants no longer need to leave their cultures behind. Modern communications make even the most remote home culture readily available and these communication networks are often aggressively used by "home countries" to maintain contact and attachment.
The first makes managing boundary flows a major issue of territorial integrity. The second makes the assimilation of legal migrants more difficult and complex.
Americans have been slow to realize the implications of these new border developments. And America's elected officials, both Democratic and Republican, have been even slower in doing anything about them.
The two are not unrelated. Americans always have many issues to think and worry about, many of which seem highly important and more pressing. The terrorist attacks of 9/11, two wars, the 2008 economic liquidity crises from which the country is still very slowly and fitfully recovering, and of course a host of other issues that continually pop up like bottles in a storm-tossed sea have made immigration and border issues an invisible problem.
According to Gallup, both legal immigration and illegal migration have ranked near the bottom of Americans' concerns for many years.
Given this minuscule level of public concern and attention, there was little political incentive or pressure to focus on the issue of illegal migration and neither political party did.
Meanwhile, the number of illegal migrants, mostly from Spanish-speaking counties south of the American border began to rise.
Next: Illegal Migrants: A Silent Invasion No More