This week the Senate approved a fence; a seven hundred mile double wall along the border with Mexico. The bill passed easily 80-19 in this election climate and it is identical to the bill that passed the House of Representatives. The Senate and House members who voted for the bill can go home now and proclaim that they have done something to stem the tide of illegal immigration. But will it work?
Sen. Kennedy gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate regarding the fence bill. He was well in the minority but the facts, as they say, are the facts.
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Let’s suppose they manage to build this miracle fence. Do we really think it is going to stop illegal immigration into the United States? We are surrounded by water and water is very hard to fence. This spring I was with some migrant workers in Florida, the ones who pick tomatoes for McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Some of these agricultural workers were citizens, some were green card holders, some had overstayed their visas and some were here illegally. However, most of them did not enter the United States in areas where the fence is going to be built.
Recently in New York state, Bucky Phillips escaped from jail by boring through the top of his cell with an industrial can opener. I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to know that if you can escape from a jail cell with a can opener, you can do the same with a double fence in the desert. Ladders can be built, tunnels can be dug and federal guards can even be bribed by well paying criminal syndicates to look the other way.
The Pew Hispanic Center’s study found that 40 to 50 percent of illegal immigrants entered the United States legally. Sen. Kennedy cited the fact that smugglers would just move their operation to Canada, transporting future illegals via boat or plane and then have them cross the 4,100-mile border with Canada.
So, it is obvious that the fence will slow down the tide but only for a short period of time. Remember the McCain-Feingold Act which was supposed to clean up campaign finance? It did for a couple of years until the 527s and the 501-c4s figured out a way to get as much money as anyone could possibly need into the election mix. A finance fence was built and within a short time every political group figured out how to circumvent it.
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We have already increased border security and even built a wall in San Diego. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this has only enriched the smugglers and increased the deaths of people crossing the desert. It has stopped the migrant farm workers from going home to their families during the non-farming season so that more illegal workers remain in the United States year round. The cost for each border apprehension has increased from $300 in 1992 to $1,700 today, with the probability of apprehension decreasing from 20 percent to five percent.
As politically popular as the fence is, it will not work. It might work in Israel but the geography of Israel is not the same as the United States border with Mexico. We need to stem the illegal tide in a way that works, however politically unpopular.
There is only one real and viable solution to the issue of illegal immigration. We need to help our Mexican neighbors create an economy that employs them in non-sweat shop environments. In addition, we must press the Mexican government to allow Americans access to everyday mom and pop businesses that create a viable trade economy. It is very difficult for the average American to own property in Mexico without mounds of paperwork. If we create conditions where Mexicans can come to work in the United States and go back home to Mexico, as well as creating conditions where Americans can work and own property in Mexico, the illegal immigration problem will dissipate. It will not need the billions of dollars for fencing; it will only need some honest politicians to stop posturing and start telling the American people the truth about illegal immigration and what will really work.