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  Fences Make for Fine Neighbors
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 11/9/06

With a brave attempt at enthusiasm, President George W. Bush signed a bill authorizing construction of a fencing system along 700 miles of our border with Mexico or about one third of the entire border. Only a small amount of the estimated total cost has been appropriated but it’s a start.

The signing was accompanied by much speechmaking and emotion for and against the project. Mexico’s President Vincente Fox had warned that the measure would harm U.S.-Mexico relations and wanted Bush to veto it. Other Mexican politicians warned of dire consequences in statements that crossed the line regarding meddling in U.S. politics and internal affaires, something that Mexico is quick to denounce when it perceives us to be the ones doing the meddling.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

But every sovereign nation has a right to mark its borders with a fence or a wall as long as it does not intrude on its neighbor’s territory. Many have done so and, in fact, we have had fences along portions of our border with Mexico for years, notably in the San Diego sector.

Moreover, they have worked and dramatically so. The San Diego sector led all other areas in illegal border crossings until Operation Gatekeeper went into effect with construction of a sixty mile barrier system equipped with better lighting and other security devices which made illegal crossing far more difficult. It worked so well, in fact, that it pushed the problem eastward to the remote, unfenced areas of Arizona where much of the new fencing is intended.

Critics say that fences won’t work because they just push the problem elsewhere. But doesn’t that mean the fences work where they are installed? Eventually, “elsewhere” needs to be fenced, also. And if fencing doesn’t work, why are Mexican authorities and advocates for illegal immigrants arguing so strenuously against it? No one claims that walls and fences will end illegal immigration or represent an ideal solution but they, along with lights and sensors, will slow the volume of illegal crossings by making the border easier to patrol and monitor, thus facilitating apprehensions. But don’t take my word for it. Ask any Border Patrol agent.

Mexican officials have described the planned fencing as an insult to their citizens, likening it to the former Berlin Wall. The comparison is puzzling. The Berlin Wall was constructed by the former communist East Germany to keep its own citizens from escaping. Our fence is intended to discourage those who would violate our sovereignty by sneaking in. And with respect to insults, do you insult your neighbor by fencing your own property?

Do we have a right to erect more border fencing? More than a right, we have a responsibility to our citizens to protect their land from foreign trespassers and an obligation to those legal immigrants who bore the effort and expense and took the time to apply for legal entry.

Mr. Bush and much of the Senate would have preferred a comprehensive immigration overhaul including a guest worker program and some path to citizenship for illegals already here. But that isn’t going to happen until we first gain control of our borders, adopt a tamper-proof, smart ID card and institute enforceable sanctions against those who hire illegals. In this election year, candidates are now fully aware that the voters are simply fed up with decades of inaction and passing the buck. They want solutions to start at the borders before embarking on any complex overhaul of immigration policy.

If Mexican politicians consider fences to be an outrage and an embarrassment, they should reflect upon just who it is that ought to be embarrassed over the plight of the Mexican citizens. They and their predecessors in office must take the blame for the lack of economic opportunity and the grinding poverty that drives Mexico’s hardworking people to leave their families and their country to embark on a perilous and illegal border crossing in search of work that pays enough to feed their families.

The ultimate solution to our illegal immigration problem does not require an elaborate overhaul of our immigration policy but rather a reform and revitalization of Mexico’s economy. The responsibility for that belongs to Mexico’s leaders, not ours. We wouldn’t want to be accused of meddling in Mexico’s internal affairs. CRO

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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