The Conservative Case Against a Border Fence

Systematic change needed to address illegal immigration.

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Donna Wiesner Keene worked in the Reagan administration as well as both Bush administrations and on Capitol Hill. Randie Rosen is a contract license attorney and MBA in Los Angeles.

At the recent GOP presidential debate in Orlando, , all but two of the nine presidential candidates endorsed building "a really big fence" along the U.S. border with Mexico to block the stem of illegal immigration. When former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum praised the value of such a costly and unrealistic endeavor, Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked him if he had ever been to the border, the reasonable reaction of almost any sensible Southwesterner. Think of a 2,000 mile fence along the Maine to Dakota border.

[See political cartoons on immigration.]

A commonly accepted idea in the GOP, the proposed fence would run the Rio Grande River and Mexico along 140 miles in California, 386 miles in Arizona, 180 miles of New Mexico and 1,254 miles in Texas, as well as the Mexican states of Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León. With more than 350,000,000 estimated crossings per year, it is easily the most crossed international border in the world.

Building fences to keep outsiders away has played out throughout human history. Beside fortressed cities or the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China still stands as a massive fortress of earth and stone fortifications originally built in the 5th century B.C. and maintained though the 16th Century A.D., measures approximately 5,500 miles, including 3,889.5 miles of actual wall, 360 miles of trenches and 1,387.2 miles of hills and rivers. It was designed to protect the inhabitants against invading armies, in particular the nomadic Manchurian and Mongolian tribes threatening to murder the 14th Century Ming dynasty rulers and invade their kingdoms.

Today's proposed fence illustrates a lack of understanding of the logistics and costs, the historical motivations driving U.S. immigration, and ignores a profound systemic change that must be achieved in order to address illegal immigration problems in a sustainable and cost efficient manner.

Most of our illegal immigration--and it is illegals, so exact number are difficult--are expired or over-extended tourist and student visas and work permits. The transition into illegal status is due to the basic inertia of human nature with its personal and family ties. In addition, few with means walk the border; they are smuggled over in trucks or use the sophisticated underground tunnels which would bypass any fence entirely. The value of a brick and mortar structure in a modern, technologically advanced era is clearly limited, if not altogether obsolete.

Ironically, the costly taxpayer-funded border fence would probably employ these same individuals to build it at low wages under poor working conditions. Comedian Central comedian and Los Angeles resident Carlos Mencia jokingly asks that when politicians deport illegal aliens and "build a super-fence so they can't get back in, so 'who's gonna build" the fence?"

Richard Viguerie and Mark Fitzgibbons have produced a new pamphlet ("The Law that Governs Government: Reclaiming the Constitution from Usurpers and Society's Biggest Lawbreaker,") that outlines how much our government breaks our laws, but environmentalist will never agree to even a government fence. For a 6 foot by 2 foot riverbank erosion repair in Montana, the author spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours, only to be told four months later the area was a wetlands--so 1200 miles in Texas along the Rio Grande River would take exactly how long?

[Read about Obama's four ways on immigration.]

The inconsequentiality and environmental impact aside, a fence may be ditched rapidly in favor of new even more harmful immigration efforts. While the E-Verify employee identification forms and number system, which claims to allow employers to verify the work status of newly hired employees and provides penalties for knowingly hiring illegal ones, is voluntary, bills in Congress would make the system mandatory. E-Verify has a 1-2 percent reported error rate ... which would leave more than 1.5 million Americans on a "do not work" list through no fault of their own, much like the hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents wrongly on a "do not fly" list. Working is more urgent than flying, but worse, E-Verify uses documents that already have major government inefficiency error rates--drivers licenses, birth certificates, Social Security cards. This week, new reports show that watermarks and other safety technology have been expertly duplicated in China. Just when you thought nothing could be as stupid as the fence.