The Problem We Never Knew We Had

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Hatred Is An Expensive And Difficult Barrier To Remove  

by Eric Elkin

…With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us
— Ephesians 2: 14b

On a recent episode of the podcast, Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell discussed the impact of General Leonard Chapman, Jr. on the U.S. border. When Chapman retired as the Commandant of United States Marine Corps in Vietnam, he was named Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Unfortunately, he brought his Vietnam frustrations with him into his new job.


According to interviews with Chapman, his one regret in life was not being able to secure a border between North and South Vietnam. A failure he blamed mainly on the Marines not having logistical authority in Vietnam. He was determined to correct this problem with the INS.


Before Chapman’s leadership, crossing the Mexican/U.S. border was as easy as walking across a neighborhood street. Chapman changed all that by visiting every border patrol station in the United States. He used good Marine order to clean up the border patrol; its approach and conduct. 


According to a Gallop Poll taken in 1973, the year Chapman took over the INS, 0% of Americans knew anything about a problem with immigration. By the time Chapman left office in 1977, that number had grown to 85%. Chapman once noted that his job was, “To tell Americans about a problem they never knew they had.”

There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
— Robert Frost, Mending Wall

Malcolm Gladwell compared Chapman’s approach to that of a young sociologist, Douglas Massey. In the 1970’s Massey discovered there was no data available documenting Mexican immigration patterns.


So he and colleague, Jorge Durand, spent 30 years compiling exhaustive data. The result of their work was the Mexican Migration Project, which today is the most respected and reliable database on immigration in the United States.


The Mexican Migration Project learned, when the border was open and not patrolled, 85% of all workers who migrated to the United States returned home. The more secure the U.S. border became, the number of migrants returning home dropped to 50% by 1980 and to 0% by 2010. 


According to Massey the cost of crossing the border increased. The increase in expense was not just to the taxpayers, but to the immigrants. The risk of being caught forced them to take more dangerous routes. The increased security was not keeping people out, but forcing them to remain in the United States. The cost of securing the border is ten times greater than before Gen. Chapman fixed the problem no one knew they had. 


Today, no subject can generate a heated debate quite like border security and immigration. The ironic thing is no president or an increase in security has stopped illegal immigration or even slowed it. However, our anger and division over the topic grow every day. The one lesson we should learn from it all is that anger is really expensive. 


In the midst of it all, we read, “With his body, [Christ] broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us.” How do these words shape us in a world there appears to be no shortage of hatred or barriers? Can we, because of this truth, live differently than the world around us which seems bent on division? I hope so.


Click to read Ephesians 2:11-22

Reflection Questions:

  • When is using force not the best answer to solving a problem?
  • What barriers do you find are dividing you from others?
  • How can hatred become expensive to maintain?
  • How can Ephesians 2:14 shape your daily living?

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