Smart Borders

How to Keep the United States Open and Safe

A U.S. Customs and Immigration officer in California, December 9, 2015. Mike Blake / Reuters

After the mid-November terrorist attacks in Paris and the December mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, there has been growing momentum to clamp down on travel and immigration to the United States, in the hope that tougher measures might prevent any further violence. In its less extreme versions, the impulse is understandable, but Congress and the Obama administration need to tread carefully. Openness is the foundation of American economic strength and its diplomatic influence, and each step in the other direction should be taken with an awareness of the true costs.

This dilemma is not a new one. It even predates 9/11. In 1998, a Pentagon-chartered commission led by former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) and former Congressman Warren Rudman (R-NH) warned that the very source of U.S. prosperity and global leadership—its openness to goods, ideas, and people moving across borders—also left the country vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Although Washington

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