Lessons for America From India’s War Against Illegal Muslim Migrants
Imagine if we had India’s immigration policy.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
India’s 2,582 mile border with Bangladesh is even longer than America’s 1,954 mile border with Mexico.
The two countries are divided not only by that border, but by religion. India has an 80% Hindu majority and a rising 13% Muslim minority. Bangladesh has a 90% Muslim majority. And the tide of Muslim migration from Bangladesh to India began to shift the population balance in some Indian states.
India has spent decades building fences, topping them with barbed wire, and installing lights. The lights are there so that the guards can see. Unlike America, there are guards, they have guns, and they shoot.
What makes America’s border different from those of so many other countries isn’t the lack of fencing. Smugglers, traffickers, and assorted criminals can often find weak points in any security setup. In most countries, the defense of the border is seen as a national security issue backed by real firepower.
America’s Border Patrol has less than 20,000 people. India’s Border Security Force has 186 battalions and 257,363 people. It’s a paramilitary organization with an intelligence network, ten artillery units, air and marine wings, and canine and even camel units. And the weapons aren’t just there for show.
Over 1,000 illegal infiltrators have been killed trying to enter India from Bangladesh in over a decade.
BSF personnel are allowed to shoot on sight. Boats are used to monitor river areas that can’t be fenced in. Air units watch from the sky. And intelligence units gather information on smuggling gangs. The first and final line of defense though comes from men with rifles watching the fences and the shadows.
When a Bangladeshi teenage girl illegally entering India was shot, leftist activists hoped to use her to stop the zero-tolerance border security policy. But India kept building fences and defending them.
And now it’s turning to the problem of the millions of illegal Bangladeshi Muslim ‘infiltrators’ in India.
Last year, around the same time that the media was fulminating over remarks by President Trump, Amit Shah, the head of India’s conservative ruling BJP, was being attacked for calling illegal aliens, “termites”.
"Millions of infiltrators have entered our country and are eating the country like termites. Should we not uproot them?” Shah asked voters in West Bengal, which is threatened by illegal Bangladeshis. “A Bharatiya Janata Party government will pick up infiltrators one by one and throw them into the Bay of Bengal."
Earlier that year, Assam, the part of India where the anti-illegal movement was born, began cracking down on the invading population with a “detect-delete-deport” program. Assam's program spotted 4 million illegal infiltrators in the state of 33 million. Many of them had made themselves at home in India, but lacked birth certificates and other documents showing that they were citizens.
Just as when it comes to border security, India’s twin assets are determination and manpower.
The “detect-delete-deport” program began by digitizing old paper records and then checking them against the documents that were submitted by the population. Tens of thousands of government employees reviewed millions of documents and then began checking and cross-referencing them. The lies weren't hard to spot as when dozens of people claimed to have been born from the same mother.
The work is far from finished but the number of Muslim illegal aliens could climb as high as 20 million, and so could the deportations, once “detect-delete-deport” is deployed across the entire country.
India’s National Register of Citizens is being used to clarify who belongs in the country and who doesn’t. Those who are unable to prove their citizenship potentially face the Foreigners’ Tribunals, courts that ask the accused to prove their citizenship. If the illegals fail to do so, they can be sent to prison and then deported. If they try to dodge the courts, the machinery of the system will move forward anyway.
Assam’s 1,000 Foreigners’ Tribunals have been busy, but every state in India has now been given the authority to create its own Tribunals. And detention camps are being built in Assam to hold illegals.
While much of the machinery is in place, the actual process of deporting millions of illegals may prove challenging. But India had previously been able to negotiate agreements with Bangladesh that made the thousands of miles of border fencing possible by using economic and political leverage. Convincing Bangladesh to accept millions of its own people, some who have been in India for a generation, may be harder, but BJP leaders clearly believe that it can be done. And financial arrangements may be a small price to pay for securing India’s future and preventing the rise of Islamic violence in affected areas.
India is also moving against the 40,000 strong Rohingya illegal Muslim population which hae been a problem in that country, as well as in Myanmar. But India is also making it clear that it will respect legitimate refugees by providing sanctuary to Hindu and Buddhist refugees fleeing Islamic violence.
There are important lessons from this effort for the United States in our immigration challenges.
India’s Modi has been dubbed a natural counterpart to Trump. Under Modi, the BJP harnessed populist sentiments to begin executing an ambitious plan for tackling India’s longstanding immigration problems. The BJP understood that it had to run on migration issues to gain political sanction for a crackdown. Popular support from Indians allowed the government to ignore protests by leftist activist groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, the domestic opposition, and even the United Nations.
The BJP understood that border security alone would never be enough. Not unless the illegal infiltrators were made to understand that there was no future for them even if they did make it across the border.
Building a border wall is a partial answer. But the real answer lies in using military force to secure the border, ending the processing of asylum requests, and distinguishing Americans from illegal aliens.
India’s example shows that these things can be done. And if India can do them, America certainly can.
Despite the media’s frenzied shrieks, there is popular support for the Trump administration’s measures from deportation to border security to adding a citizenship question to the census. The obstacle is a radical judiciary determined to protect an illegal base of Democrat voters and voting districts.
The illegal migrant issue is not about human rights or racism. It’s about political power. Democrats opposed Vietnamese refugees for the same reason that they now support open borders with Mexico.
The BJP understood this and campaigned by targeting the left-wing opposition as a party of illegals. Its fundamental argument was that leftists had chosen foreign migrants over the country’s own poor.
That was a winning argument in India. It’s a winning argument in America.