Liberal Grace

Monday, March 26, 2007

One year later: how's that border fence coming?

A year ago, starting with pro-immigration marches, the issue of illegal immigration hit a fevered pitch. Let's check in and see how that's going.

Not being an election year, the hysteria and pandering has toned-down but, certainly, the illegal immigration problem has not gone away.

Last year, congress was in an uproar. Bill O'Reill and Sean Hannity were screaming about "AN INVASION!" And there were citizen activists patrolling the border at night, ready to build their own fence, if need be.

First stop: Grass Roots Movements

Border Fence Project" (with the slogan "American Citizens Securing the Border Themselves...")

This is my favorite bragging point on the site:

Wow! Two miles in one year! By the year 3,056 we'll have all 2,100 miles of the border secured. Then we can focus on the northern border and the coast lines.

To be fair, I found another group that claims to have built another seven miles of fence. external link And there is fourteen miles built in San Diego external link so, only 2,077 need to be fenced. Flooding from global warning might shave a few miles off of that, too.

Face it, you and I are going to pick up the tab for these "grass roots" groups -- to the tune of billions, most likely.

Second stop: The Fence Bill

Remember the urgent drive to pass a fence bill? It had to be rushed through because of the millions of (POSSIBLE TERRORIST!) Mexicans pouring over the border!!!!

House Resolution 6061, the "Secure Fence Act of 2006", was passed in September with a vote of 283 to 138. external link

By the end of September, in an overwhelming vote (80 to 19 the U.S.) Senate confirmed H.R. 6061 and authorized partial funding for the "possible" construction of 700 miles of the fence! external link

The bill was passed and killed at the same time. Ultimately, I think what holds-up the fence is that it is INSANELY EXPENSIVE. I tried, in vain, last year to get the high-profile fence advocates to tell me how much such a fence would cost. Not a single one returned my emails.

One article suggest 8 billion to initially build the fence and a force of about 150,000 border agents to patrol it (there are currently 11,000) at a yearly cost of at least another five billion. external link

I suspect that nobody really knows how much this will cost but this you can count on: it will cost far more than initial estimates. Everything with the government does. We all know that.

Stop three: The "Virtual Fence"

Americans love high-tech solutions. So Bush, among others, called for not a physical fence but a virtual one with high-tech surveillance devices, motion detectors, drones, cameras, etc. external link

I can only conclude two things about people who make this proposal:
1) Our leaders aren't using their noodles; or
2) They know its a boondoggle but one that makes government contractors even richer.

But we here at Liberal Grace use our noodles: so let's think about this:

At mile 931 of the fence, a group of 35 immigrants rush the "virtual" fence and it's picked up by a camera. The border patrol goes rushing out there to intercept them. Minutes later, a group of 17 rush the border at mile 79. Then groups, in threes and fives, rush the border between miles 1500 and 2000 -- so we send agents rushing over there. And on and on. (An estimated 1,000 to 2,700 people cross every night external link.)

No matter how much I use my noodle, I just can't picture this working.

I've lived in the inner-city -- the reason people put bars on their windows is because it is a lot cheaper than putting up hi-tech sensing devices and hiring a security firm to monitor. There's a reason you only see the high tech solutions in the rich suburbs.

The next time somebody proposes a "virtual fence" as some sort of easier or cheaper solution, you should laugh them off the stage.

As for me, I believe that drying up the jobs is the best way to slow down illegal immigration. Despite the dire warnings, these Mexicans aren't coming here to be terrorists, they're coming for jobs. This raises the only lasting solution: Mexico needs to reform it's economy so that millions of their citizens aren't desperate to leave.

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