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Sunday, November 27, 2005
PoliColumn II: On a Border Fence
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:57 am

A two-fer Sunday.

From today’s Birmingham News: Fence won’t fix illegal immigration

Fence won’t fix illegal immigration
Sunday, November 27, 2005
STEVEN L. TAYLOR

Not long ago, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions was one of three principle sponsors of the Border Security and Interior Enforcement Improvement Act of 2005, which seeks to fortify our borders. Among a number of orthodox proposals to fortify the U.S.-Mexican border was the idea of a security fence from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Such a fence would have to cover almost 2,000 miles and would cost $5 billion to $7 billion.

Clearly, the inspiration of this type of proposal is the security fences that have been constructed in Israel (as well as a nine-mile fence the United States already has constructed near San Diego). It is worth noting that the Israeli fence, which is concrete in portions but mainly chain link (two layers, combined with ditches, barbed wire and other such measures), was proposed to cross a total of 480 miles, according to Israeli government documents. It currently is about 365 miles long.

Not only is the Israeli fence a far smaller structure than would be required for the U.S.-Mexican border, it is constructed in an area with far more population density, making it easier to patrol the perimeter.

All of this calls into question whether it serves as an adequate model for the United States.

Of course, how effective would such a fence even be? There is no doubt a fence would slow illegals from crossing. However, building a wall is not, in and of itself, sufficient to achieve the goals being discussed. A barrier would still have to be patrolled, as there will be those who breach it in some fashion. It is worth recalling that there have already been examples of tunnels being dug under the border - a practice that would no doubt proliferate if a wall were constructed.

Concern over illegal immigration often ignores the economics of the situation. There are clear supply-and-demand forces at work that create a pull across the border. Millions of people clearly want work, and there are jobs beckoning them. The forces of a natural market are difficult to combat, as it requires striking directly at human nature.

These incentives are so strong that people are willing to die to cross into the United States to find jobs. They walk across the desert or come packed into trucks, and many do not make it. These are people who face death so they can work the night shift cleaning up the local McDonald’s. That should at least partially put into perspective the difficulties involved in controlling the border.

There also is ugly imagery associated with a wall. Don’t forget the wall constructed to separate east and west Berlin. The very possibility of a Mexican president some day standing at the Laredo Gate calling out “Mr. President, tear down this wall” should concern anyone with historical perspective.

Granted, the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in, and a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border would be designed to keep people out, but should the country that President Reagan described as a “shining city on a hill” be building walls to keep people out? What would the Statue of Liberty say?

The fact that the immigration laws of the United States are being broken en masse, not to mention drug smuggling and the possibility that terrorists could cross the border, is a worry. However, the fantasy that we can actually control the border ignores not only the vastness of the territory, but also the remarkable amount of legitimate traffic that crosses the border daily.

Laredo, Texas, alone has more than 9,000 daily crossings of vehicles, and it is impossible to adequately inspect every truck. Even if a fence substantially slowed border crossings on the frontier, there still would be opportunities to illegally enter the country.

If this appears to be a pessimistic viewpoint, so be it. Asserting total control of such a vast amount of territory against the forces that draw tens of thousands of people northward is probably impossible. As such, we have to ask ourselves if spending billions of dollars on a 2,000-mile fence is wise or desirable - especially since it is highly unlikely that a fence will do away with illegal immigration.

Filed under: US Politics, My Columns, Immigration | |Send TrackBack

Pererro linked with Illegal Immigration
A Knight’s Blog » Topic For The Day (Week? Month?): Immigration linked with [...] to be formost in the minds of many. The Sultan of Brunei (Poliblogger Steven Taylor) has posted a column he wrote for the Birmingham News about Senator Jeff Sessions’ sponsorship of a fence spa [...]

4 Comments »

  1. There are clear supply-and-demand forces at work that create a pull across the border. Millions of people clearly want work, and there are jobs beckoning them. The forces of a natural market are difficult to combat, as it requires striking directly at human nature.

    I think it’s more of a push/pull. Economics in Mexico are so bad that people would do anything to get out, and the lowest living standards in the U.S. are much higher than the places they came from. In short, it’s not just a jobs situation, but a quality of life situation. At least, that’s my thought.

    Comment by bryan — Sunday, November 27, 2005 @ 12:30 pm

  2. Quite true. I almost got into the push business, but only had some many words to work with ;)

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, November 27, 2005 @ 3:35 pm

  3. […] to be formost in the minds of many. The Sultan of Brunei (Poliblogger Steven Taylor) has posted a column he wrote for the Birmingham News about Senator Jeff Sessions’ sponsorship of a fence spa […]

    Pingback by A Knight’s Blog » Topic For The Day (Week? Month?): Immigration — Monday, November 28, 2005 @ 7:59 am

  4. Illegal Immigration

    Scott over at Paladin’s Blog has a large post on illegal immigration that I thought was interesting. Just last night, my mom and I were watching a special on MSNBC on illegal immigration and the minutemen that I thought was pretty interesting.

    An…

    Trackback by Pererro — Monday, November 28, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

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