Let’s conduct a thought experiment.  Imagine that you have just landed at New York’s JFK International Airport after a 15-hour flight from Mumbai.  Although you splurged for a business-class ticket, the extra-large seat, constant parade of food, and infinite selection of video entertainment didn’t help you forget you were trapped in a steel tube 35,000 feet above the earth for 63 percent of an entire day.  The pilot announces the local time as soon as you touch down in New York.  You look at your watch, still set to Indian time, and laugh out loud because your circadian rhythm begs to differ with the time he states.  Nothing would make you happier at this point than a shower and a good night’s sleep in your own bed.  However, as miserable, tired, and disoriented as you feel, you still have to get home from the airport.

After disembarking you make your way through the endless, snaking hallways of JFK’s international-arrivals area.  A low murmur starts to fill the passageway; its volume increases with your every step.  Eventually, you get to its source.  You now stand in a room with several hundred other travelers, half of whom are queued under a sign reading “U.S. Citizens,” the other half under a sign reading “Non-U.S. Citizens.”  You hop on the end of the  U.S. Citizens line and cool your heels for 15 minutes in the same spot while immigration officials grill your fellow Americans.  Your impatience comes to a boil.  You consider your options.  Perhaps not totally clearheaded, or maybe just eager to end your interminable trek from India, you pick up your carry-on bag and blow past the passport desk mumbling under your breath, “I don’t have time for this crap.”  You don’t so much as glance at the enraged immigration officers who demand that you return to the line and wait your turn.

Feeling emboldened, you waltz into the baggage-claim rotunda and pull out your cell phone.  Numerous signs posted around the room warn that cell-phone use will result in arrest.  Nonetheless, you call home to inform your spouse of your arrival.  In the middle of your call an immigration officer rushes up to you, snaps his fingers, and orders you to put your phone back in your bag.  Instead of obeying his command, you shriek, “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of a call, buddy?”  Luckily, at that exact moment your bags appear on the luggage carousel.  You grab them and head towards the U.S. Customs gate, only to find . . . another line!

Confident in your newfound prowess at evading long waits, you ball up your customs declaration form and throw it at the agent who’s ordering you to remain in place until you are called.  As the wad bounces off his face, you respond, “Whatever, tough guy,” and continue to the taxi stand outside.  You tell your driver the destination, and he pulls away after loading your suitcases in the trunk.  In a rare instance of New York civility, your driver tries to chat with you and asks you where you just flew in from.  You give him a quick summary: “Bombay, or Mumbai, or whatever they call it now.  Super long flight.  I’m exhausted.  It’s two in the afternoon here, but it feels like midnight to me.  I’m completely filthy, been in these clothes for almost three days now.  But I gotta say, I love JFK: Immigration and customs were a breeze!”

That thought experiment was silly from the start.  Newly elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s revolutionary plan to abolish the use of all fossil fuels by 2030 has a higher chance of succeeding than anything you read in the previous four paragraphs.  If you were to saunter past U.S. immigration officers at passport control, rest assured you would be violently tackled, and rightfully so.  If by chance you did sneak past our nation’s first armed line of defense, the officer who was subsequently hit in the face with your customs declaration would likely body slam you, right before his colleagues hog-tied and handcuffed you.  Again, rightfully so.  Something similar would happen to any cell-phone addict unable to fight the urge at baggage claim.  Once again, rightfully so.  The U.S. border at JFK—and every other airport welcoming international flights in the United States—is as impenetrable as Mika Brzezinski’s skull.  So why are politicians arguing about walls and caravans and illegal aliens and comprehensive immigration reform?  I’ll bet anyone a pair of VIP tickets to Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential election victory powwow that fewer than ten individuals have snuck across the armed and secured U.S. borders at JFK, ATL, ORD—or any other major American airport—in the last decade.  We have a border-security system that works.  We just don’t use it where it matters, along the imaginary international divide between California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and the geopolitical colossus to our south, Mexico, which has blessed us with narcotraficantes, low riders, and guacamole.

When Americans return from trips overseas, they show their passports to immigration agents in order to gain readmission to their country.  They do so for many reasons, and among them “respect for the law” ranks highly.  Americans have the right of return to their country after an overseas trip.  But that right only exists based on their duty to show a valid passport, to answer questions from immigration authorities, and to comply with any other regulations pertinent to their country of departure.  No American may decide not to show his passport, or refuse to tell an immigration officer how long he’s been away, or lie about spending time on a foreign farm, and then expect the authorities to wave him right back into the United States of Overconsumption.  The immigration officer can legally bar entry to those who do not fulfill these reasonable requirements.  And we should all be thankful for the brave men and women who provide this security.

But the federal immigration-policy manual seems to have been transformed when the authorities sent it to their colleagues along the Rio Grande.  More likely, the ACLU, SPLC, New York Times, and MSNBC put it through their paper shredders and rewove the pieces into their very own antinational, pro-criminal protocol.  They then faxed the “woke” handbook to the valiant border agents trying to regulate the tidal wave of “immigrants” moving north who see no reason to obey U.S. immigration law, as does the brazen American traveler in the previous thought experiment.  Laws only apply to those who obey them, such as Americans returning from vacation.  When those same Americans see others scoffing at the laxly enforced laws on our southern border, they stop buying into the American “nation of laws” myth.  But national myths provide the cement of our common culture.  And this myth is less mythical than the trite “nation of immigrants” nonsense or anything you learned in grammar school about Abraham Lincoln.  If those moving north refuse to obey U.S. immigration laws, then why should a haggard American air traveler do so?  If no one you knew filed his tax returns, would you?  Would the United States still exist as a nation of scofflaws?  Does equality before the law—say, between a Nebraska high-school band returning from a tour of Austria and a pack of 20-year-old MS-13 gangbangers with face tattoos—apply here?

Until Millennials anointed Mom and Dad as their personal chauffeurs, Americans considered earning their driver’s license a meaningful right of passage.  Cognizant of the importance of obedience to the law, every student in my high school counted the days till his 17th birthday when he could borrow his parents’ car to take the road test at the DMV.  One impetuous classmate, Rick Tierney, couldn’t wait that long.  “Dickie,” as he was known then, went for a joyride one night in his parents’ car before his magical 17th birthday and was caught by the local police.  As memory serves, Dickie had to wait until he was 18 to take the driver’s license test, a punishment which the rest of us would have argued was “cruel and unusual” if we had ever heard the phrase before we started reading Chronicles.  That was 1981, when laws were enforced and rebellious teenagers obeyed them—or paid a draconian price, as Dickie did.  But now we hear nightly news reports of unlicensed drivers, in the country illegally, who commit vehicular crimes.  And often the reports include toss away phrases like “previous multiple offenses” and “no known address.”  I would love to see Dickie’s reaction today when he hears politicians rewarding such lawbreakers with promises of drivers’ licenses for the “undocumented.”  I hope he’s a federal judge now.

Dickie had no legal right to drive at 16, but he did anyway.  Today, why wouldn’t a 15-year-old illegal alien drive himself around?  If he gets caught, he just pays the fine—or doesn’t—and hops back behind the wheel.  American teens might ruin their admissions prospects at their dream college, and therefore don’t take that risk.  Wait until those same budding scholars become adults and decide to travel abroad.  After they return to American soil and run the immigration gauntlet they might teach their children that only suckers obey driver’s license regulations and federal immigration laws.