The complex reality behind ‘building the damned fence’
Underneath the somewhat general and misunderstood term ‘immigration reform’ are two central issues: An overhaul of current immigration policies and tighter border security. Both are complex but today we’re going to focus on the latter.
First and foremost, it’s not as easy as just ‘building a damn fence’. Although on the surface this seems like a simple, tidy solution the truth is it’s nowhere close.
Let’s look at some of the issues that would make building a fence impossibly difficult:
The border is big – The border spans 1969 miles. To build say an eight foot fence across a span that large would almost certainly be prohibitively expensive on just material costs alone.
The border terrain is rugged and unpredictable – The vast majority of the border is made up of desolate desert landscapes that are harsh and unforgiving. Building in these areas would be complex and problematic.
Land ownership – Despite what you might believe, there are privately owned lands on various points along the border. These lands would either have to be purchased or acquired by eminent domain, inviting lengthy legal battles and court costs. This aspect alone would take years to straighten out.
Fences don’t really work that well – We all know fences can be climbed, but another common way past a fence is going underneath it. Mexican drug cartels are experts at using underground tunnels to not only cross the border but evade ICE agents along the way. There are already fences present at large sections of the border and although they have somewhat helped the immigration problem, they’ve only been effective to a degree.
But let’s say for the sake of argument the stars align and a massive continuous eight foot fence is constructed along the entire border. We are then left with another complex, pressing question:
Who would defend it?
Not who as in which agency as the Department of Homeland Security would obviously take the lead, but quite literally who as in the border guards themselves.
Simply put, DHS would have to hire a hell of a lot of new border patrol officers to handle a fence of such magnitude.
Look up there again. The border is 1969 miles long. Let’s say you want one agent for every three miles, that’s 656 agents needed for the entire fence. The number would likely be higher because you’d need not only roving agents but stationary ones guarding the fence. DHS would also have to contribute increased non-human resources to handle the undertaking.
Of course this leads us to the question: Who will pay for all this?
The answer obviously, is the American taxpayer but that’s the pink elephant in the room the ‘Build the fence’ people rarely bother to address. This is deliberate of course because they known that such a project would take a lot of zeroes to build and maintain.
And even if you build a border fence against all odds, you’ve only come part way in solving the problem.
Aside from the actual border itself, the vast majority of border regions are barren, rugged deserts with few unique marks among them. It can easily seem like an endless, repeating, unchanging landscape like the repeating background on an old cartoon.
It’s difficult and treacherous to navigate either by vehicle or on foot and policing such an area is complicated, painstaking work even for well trained and equipped officers.
Add to that the fact that the majority of illicit border crossings are done by professionals, either in the form of Mexican drug cartel associates or what are known as ‘coyotes’, paid human smugglers tasked with getting illegal immigrants across the border safely.
These operatives know ICE tactics well and spend their lives developing methods to circumvent them. They aren’t just going to go away if a big fence gets put up.
Illegal immigration and drug running are big business. As long as the money flows (and it will), that’s not going to change. A border wall won’t stop it. Even slaughtering a good number of the cartel members wouldn’t stop it.
We aren’t going to solve the problem with guns.
We aren’t going to solve the problem with a wall.
We aren’t going to solve the problem by deporting all Latinos.
We are only going to solve it when work together on a meaningful, effective solution that respects the rights of immigrants and the laws of the United States.
Sadly, I think we’re a long way away from that.