Your Mail: Cross Views on Border Crossings

My article on “undocumented” border crossings provoked stories from many of you about your experiences at the border, as well as your thoughts on immigration policy and racial profiling. I was very honest about my ignorance of the border-crossing process and appreciate your insights and criticisms.

Allen Poland writes:

Read your interesting account of crossing the Mexican border. I've read of this before and have concluded that most Americans simply feel that border crossing documentation is for "foreigners." "I'm an American.... they can see that.”

SRE: Thanks Allen, while I certainly didn’t intend to be waived through the border without showing documentation, I believe I was “randomly selected” because I was American and didn’t expect my daughter’s identification to be taken. Your statement that one can identify another’s national identity through sight leads to the next comment.

Abel Maeso Navarro writes:

Being Mexican is not a racial classification. “Mexican” is a nationality. There are white (Caucasians) of Mexican nationality and others who may be indigenous Amerindians, still others who are Negros and still many who are a mixture of two or all three races; all of whom are Mexican citizens. There are even Semitic people (Jews and Arabs) who are Mexican. This same fact is true of all people living within all countries in the Americas, including North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

To imply that you and your daughter were "the only white people" at the Mexican border waiting to get into the U.S. is inaccurate, to say the least. Racial classification is a sensitive issue and should be treated with accuracy.

SRE: I appreciate you pointing this out and acknowledge that race and nationality are distinct. If the distinction is ever blurred, it is because Americans may identify the Chicano or Latino ethnic group through perceived racial features. My point in making that statement was to point out that I believe my racial and national identity were a basis for the random search.

Steven Marshall of Eatontown, N.J. writes:

I enjoy your writing and TV appearances, even if I disagree with some to most of your political views. Your story of being selected by computer at the U.S./Mexico border is funny, but not unfamiliar to travelers. We are living in the post-reality, liberal world of feel-good and make-nice with every potential plaintiff out there.

We live in a world of non-racism, non-sexism, non-ageism, non-realism; a world in which idea and perception are more real than the fact that aliens are not apt to be average appearing North Americans, in which Islamic terrorists cannot be profiled as, well, persons likely to be Islamic.

We live in that brave new world in which it is better to die, to allow our culture, our core values be destroyed, overwhelmed by a tidal wave of relativistic ballyhoo. The West now lacks confidence and faith in what it stands for. Thanks to all the neo-Buddhists, Taoists, Arabs, atheists, and Christian fundamentalists for creating a universe in which whatever you believe is so. Where is Aristotle now that we need him?

SRE: My article provoked many similar responses about racial profiling. There are many reasons why I could have been selected, but think it was primarily because I may have had something to offer.

Chuck Cagle of Waco, Texas writes:

What did you expect? Your daughter didn't have the proper documentation. Whose fault was that? Folks must take personal responsibility. As far as you being "selected", those folks have probably read some of your articles.

SRE: I take full responsibility for not having proper identification, but having the identification taken from me was not what I expected. Thanks for giving me a chuckle.

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

A woman of firsts, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and the first woman to head a national presidential campaign (Dukakis). Estrich is committed to paving the way for women to assume positions of leadership.

Books by Estrich include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders." Her book "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women," is a departure from her other works, encouraging women to take care of themselves by engaging the mind to fight for a healthy body. Her latest book, The Los Angeles Times bestseller, "Sex & Power," takes an impassioned look at the division of power between men and women in the American workforce, proving that the idea of gender equality is still just an idea.