Wednesday, May 24, 2006

If Half A Fence Is Good...

There's a really good article by Duncan Currie at The Weekly Standard today, saying that now that the Senate has voted for the Sessions amendment to the immigration bill, currently in progress, which authorizes 370 miles of triple layered fencing on our border with Mexico, the real debate over border security can begin. (Just as a side note, our border with Mexico is 1,951 miles long.) So, why does the real debate begin after the votes are cast?

Currie makes the point that up till now the conversation has been "...fraught with demagoguery and suspect analogies. Witness Rep. James Sensenbrenner's recent description of employers who exploit illegal immigrant labor as '21st-century slave masters.'" Currie also cites the frequent comparison of a wall on the Mexican border with the Berlin Wall--you know, the wall that separated a previously united country/city into two parts, the free side and the communist side. However, the people who pull out the Berlin Wall/Mexican border analogy generally fail to note the primary difference between the two; The Berlin Wall was put up to keep people in the country, and a U.S./Mexico wall, while not exactly designed to keep people out, would serve to force people to stop entering illegally and start using the front door. Hardly a legitimate comparison.

Despite the assertion that building a wall would put us on par with repressive communist regimes, 83 Senators voted last week for the partial fence to be built. All of the Republicans voted for it, but 83 affirmative votes means that Democrats voted for it as well-- a lot of them, including "Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid, Pat Leahy, Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer, and Dianne Feinstein." Currie points out some inconsistency here:

Last December House Republicans took heat for endorsing some 698 miles worth of Mexican border fencing. So now we know the crucial difference between sensible border enforcement and crude "immigrant bashing"--about 328 miles of fencing. Fences that cover 698 miles are a noxious emblem of right-wing nativism. Fences that cover 370 miles are a reasonable means to fortify American security.

The fencing debate reflects the general frivolity of the immigration row. If building 370 miles of border fencing is worth the trouble, then building 698 miles of fencing seems to be at least a reasonable option to consider. Either fencing will help discourage illegal border crossings, or it won't. Yet many senators who pronounce themselves "serious" about dealing with illegal immigration scorned the House bill but then turned around and voted for the Sessions legislation last week.

His observation is a good one. So, now that 28 Senate Democrats are on record as supporting enhanced border security, what does it mean? If a partial fence is good, wouldn't a whole fence be better? Currie says that there are three main issues within the fence debate: symbolism, cost, and effectiveness. What would a fence say to Mexicans? What will it's price be, and can we afford it? Finally, the most important question: will it work? The answers to these questions, and others ( like what to do about the people already here illegally), are still in limbo, but Currie declares that, now, we are ready for a real discussion.
...when 28 Senate Democrats jump on board with the concept of security fencing, you know it's an idea that merits serious bipartisan debate, rather that just casual dismissals and partisan bombast. Thanks above all to Sen. Sessions, we may now have that debate.
Maybe if they put aside Berlin Wall comparisons and talk of "21st-century slave masters", and recognize that this is something the American people really do want addressed seriously, the Senate can truly act as representatives of the people who elect them; by voting for even a part of a wall they've made a small step or two in that direction. The Pollyanna in me would love to believe it's just the beginning. The realist in me is thinking they'll do just enough to pacify the public, and then fall back into the routine, holding televised hearings on such weighty matters as steroid abuse in baseball. I hope the Pollyanna is right this time. The realist would like a few days off.


  1. It's always nice to see your inner Pollyanna peeping out.

    Personally I think border fencing is rather an odd concept for controlling immigration. I assume if the immigrant wins the match they let him into the country...?

    (pardon my rapier wit)

  2. You know what? Fences are like rules, they are always representative of what is supposed to be upheld, but realistically, just keeps getting broken down. Letting the immigrant stay because they "won" is unfortunately so much of what the American emotionalism is about. Just mislabled, "it's not fair" mentality. Life is never fair. I believe, right or wrong, that if they are here and part of our working economy, they should be paying taxes and giving something back. OK, I know that is simplified. But, then it is a "win-win" situation. Politically, it is an unweildy issue. Emotionally, it is an untenable issue - kicking millions of people out of a country they consider safer, for whatever reason, than their own. The only comment from Mexico's President that has sunk in in recent days -forgive me, I am digesting my safer socio-political based nutrition after it has been refined for me by Kat's Meow :):) -
    is that they are working on making it more attractive for the mexican people to want to stay in their own country. Let us hope, and I mean this totally altruistically, that he truly intends to back up that vision.

    I want a world where borders are only a matter of neighborhood designation. I don't want a "one-world" government, heaven's no, but MY personal Pollyanna's ideal is for everyone to get along. I know, with Satan's constant interference, we can only wait for the awaited someday. In the meantime? God bless us and keep us all.