|'Good Fences Make Good Neighbors'
by Larry Stirling 11/27/07
For those of us old enough to remember, the various borders of the United States were historically respected.
We did not require walls or massive security patrols to protect them.
Americans from Brownsville, Texas all the way to San Ysidro, Calif., had long since developed comfortable relationships throughout Mexico.
I was just one of thousands of Americans that helped during the Mexico City earthquake.
Americans help Mexico by building orphanages and schools throughout the country.
Itinerant Mexican workers lived in the cultural security of their ancient villages with their loving central squares where everyone kept watch over the local kids in the shadow of the Catholic Church.
Stirling is a retired judge who authored the book "Leading at a Higher Level." He is a former Army officer, member of the San Diego City Council, the California State Assembly and the State Senate. [go to Stirling index]
They had not yet been forced to immigrate to the United States to settle in the slums and Los Angeles and lose their young men gangland crime.
Like many Americans who work in oil fields or serve in the military, the bread earner could commute to work in the United States for a couple of months and return home for the rest of the year to live in relative comfort.
It was a great system that benefited the people of both nations. Mexicans worked at relatively lucrative jobs among itinerant friends. Americans, indeed the world, benefited by the availability of a huge attractive work force.
Up north, to this very day, the borders between the United States ("The lower 48" and Alaska) and Canada stretch away through endless miles of beautiful forests: no border guard in sight except at the points of entry.
We did not have a problem with massive illegal immigration until the Democrats came under the spell of mythical farm-labor leader Caesar Chavez and his grape boycotts.
Senor Chavez was trying to increase the standard of living for farm workers. Fair enough.
Leaving aside that organizing farm workers gave Chavez and his henchmen jobs in air-conditioned offices while the workers sweated in the fields, his grand strategy was to get the federal government to cut off the peripatetic flow of international workers.
He reasoned that a reduced supply would increase demand and wages would be forced up.
Whether it ever occurred to Mr. Chavez or his patron, lady-killer Ted Kennedy, that the result would be a population catastrophe, they did not say nor have either ever owned up to.
The dysfunctional results of the Chavez strategy was the same as any other union monopoly: a few are benefited at the expense of the many.
The message that commuting workers received was that the U.S. government was in the process of closing its borders. That portended hardship and death to those who traditionally supported their families through annual sojourns to the north.
Now what? Should we build a wall and anger friendly and strategic Mexico forever? Or shall we just let the forces of entropy prevail and give up the nation we fought for and built to such success for 300 years?
I have just returned from Israel where they have been struggling with this very issue since the nation's inception 50 years ago.
Israel is bounded on the north by a portion of Lebanon that is occupied by the murderous Hezbollah Muslims who recently completed an attack on their country and are actively preparing for another.
On the northeast border, they face hostile Syria. To the east and west they have good relationships with Jordon and Egypt. To the southwest they are faced with vicious Hamas bottled up in the Gaza. And inside their country they are plagued by the Hamas-fueled antics of the domestic Palestinians.
As you might guess, there are different solutions for each situation.
Facing Hezbollah in the north, there is no wall, but there is an intensive string of automated observation posts supplemented by inexpensive drone aircraft keeping an eye on activity north of the border.
Against Syria, they require a tank brigade on full alert. Along the Jordanian and Egyptian borders, there is only a small fence bordered by a raked path that discloses footprints of crossing. Around Gaza: prison-like security. The domestic Palestinians of the West Bank seem to need walls to keep them from killing Israelis.
Since neither Mexico nor Canada is our enemy, facing them with a wall seems as short-sighted as the Chavez strategy.
A reasonable fence with the intensive surveillance backed up by mobile response teams seems a more effective response to the Chavez-induced mess.
As Robert Frost said, "Something there is that does not like a wall." But in spite of Frost's dubiosity, I believe "Good fences do make good neighbors."
The fences should be effective but the gates in the fences should be wide and efficient for legal crossing.
That way, we can keep the bad guys out and let the good guys in.
That seems like good policy to me. CRO
2007 Larry Stirling