Homeland Security is defending its plans to build a 670-mile, $2.1 billion fence along the Texas-Mexico border, while admitting that the barrier is not effective in stopping illegal immigration by itself.
Today's New York Times quotes Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff:
I don’t believe the fence is a cure-all. Nor do I believe it is a waste. Yes, you can get over it; yes, you can get under it. But it is a useful tool that makes it more difficult for people to cross. It is one of a number of tools we have, and you’ve got to use all of the tools.
The latest fence defense comes after the Texas Border Coalition filed a lawsuit to stop construction. To see why this group — which includes mayors, judges, commissioners, and economists — opposes the fence,
The Coalition argues that the federal government did not properly consult local authorities and failed to negotiate a reasonable price with property owners prior to taking the land.
Over the last few years, illegal border crossing rates have been dropping sharply. But, physical barriers have been effective only when used with electronic surveillance and aggressive prosecution.
Should the government be spending $2.1 billion on a fence that doesn't help on its own? Would that money be better used to address the economic and social factors contributing to illegal immigration? Or is this one tool necessary for responsible immigration policy? And, regardless of effectiveness, how should the local community's rights be protected?