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Borders and Beyond: The Future of American Border Security Event Recap

Published 4/8/2024

On March 19, 2024, the National Security Law Journal (NSLJ) hosted its annual Spring Symposium in partnership with Antonin Scalia Law School’s Immigration Law Society (ILS). This year’s topic was “Borders and Beyond: The Future of American Border Security.” 

Attendees were welcomed to the Van Metre Hall Auditorium, greeted by current and incoming NSLJ board members, and given complimentary copies of NSLJ’s recent publications. 

At the beginning of the event, the incoming editor-in-chief of NSLJ, Brittney DePoto, gave opening remarks welcoming everyone to the event and thanking the NSLJ and ILS board members who helped plan the panel conversation and reception.  Brian Min, Co-President of ILS, introduced the distinguished moderator, Stephanie Groff, and panelists, James McCament, Julie Myers Wood, and Cart Weiland.  These panelists, with their extensive expertise and accomplishments within border security and immigration law, provided an insightful discussion.  

As moderator Stephanie Groff stated at the beginning of the discussion, the views expressed by the panelists and herself represented their individual views and were not necessarily representing the views of the government.

The conversation started with the history of the United States’ border security.  Both Mr. McCament and Ms. Wood were at the founding of the Department of Homeland Security.  They provided insight into the concerns that were present at its founding related to border security, particularly in response to the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and the brokenness of the immigration law enforcement systems.  Ms. Wood discussed how the lack of communication between the various services/departments was a primary concern and a driver to implementing DHS to protect America.

The panelist then spoke about the trends of immigration.  Mr. McCament spoke on how, over the years, there has been an increase in the volume of immigration into the United States, along with an increase in the use of technology and national cooperation in the U.S. to adjust to the increased volume. He also spoke about how the demographics of those immigrating into the United States have changed from the time of the Obama administration, when predominately single males came looking for work, to the evolution of families seeking asylum.  Mr. Weiland then discussed how the locations where individuals are arriving have increased in variety; before, individuals were predominately arriving from Mexico, but today, in addition to Mexico, individuals are arriving from China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Haiti, among other places.  However, Ms. Wood added that fundamental problems of managing border security have remained unchanged.

The topic then shifted to how technology can protect and secure the border and ports of entry.  Mr. McCament spoke on how technology is used to identify individuals and as a way of interdiction.  Ms. Wood mentioned that a question that has yet to be answered is whether the government is able to use all the data the private sector has. 

Mr. Weiland then discussed the role of the State Department as the diplomatic arm of the government and his experience while working there. He discussed the two main ways the Department is involved with immigration and border security. First, he addressed the administration of foreign aid to countries where individuals are migrating to help with the root causes of migration. Second, he discussed negotiations of cooperative agreements between the United States and other countries.

The panel then discussed the challenges to bipartisan agreement in Congress regarding border security and immigration.  Mr. Weiland discussed the admirable efforts of some individuals in Congress to address the situation but noted that the topic of immigration is currently very “toxic” in Congress.  Ms. Wood mentioned that the executive branch may have the possibility of taking immigration action in the future.  Mr. McCament stated that piecemeal reform may be more achievable rather than a comprehensive plan. 

The panel also took questions from the audience, including questions about balancing individual rights and national security, the use of AI in immigration law, and the current state of the Canadian-American border. 

Following the panel, all attendees were invited to the art gallery in Van Metre Hall for a reception featuring a fajita bar from Moe’s Southwest Grill. Audience members were able to converse with the panelist and Ms. Groff about additional questions and their experience within the national security field.

Overall, the event was a great success, filled with insightful conversation. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Ms. Groff, Mr. McCament, Ms. Wood, and Mr. Weiland for their invaluable contributions to the symposium. We also express our deep appreciation to the board members of NSLJ and ILS for their work in planning the symposium; specifically, we thank Gabriella Hensinger, Parker Bowman, Danielle Saman, Francesca Romaniello, Brian Min, and Zion Godfrey. 

We look forward to seeing everyone at our Fall 2024 Symposium!