Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Economist on HR4437

Or rather, on one provision, the building of a security fence on the border. This is from the leader in the print edition.

From sea to shining sea.
A serious barrier to keep those pesky Mexicans out of the United States.
BOTHERSOME neighbours? Build a fence. That's what the United States will do if the House of Representatives gets its way. Try as they will, the authorities seem unable to reduce very much the number of people who cross the Mexican border illegally. They are catching more—over 1m last year—but still they come, so the House has voted to put up some 1,125km (700 miles) of fencing—at a cost, it is said, of $2.2 billion.
Don't say it won't work. Congressmen are not stupid. They know that the Maginot line, built to guard France's frontier with Germany, did not hold Hitler up for more than ten minutes in 1940: he simply went round the end. They also know that Germany's counterpart, the Siegfried line, did not perform much better, scarcely delaying the American Third Army at all in 1945. They know, too, that the Scots were wily enough to see that, if they scaled Hadrian's wall and jumped down the other side, they were in England, and the Welsh formed the same opinion about Offa's dyke. They know, too, that China's Great Wall proved no impediment to Genghis Khan when he started his big sweep early in the 13th century.
Some of those lines and walls actually did do their job for a while, keeping the hordes back, or forcing them along to some spot where guards could resist them more easily, or just causing a bit of alarm and despondency. Even so, Congress was plainly not inspired by them. It obviously took heart from another, better wall: the “anti-fascist protection structure” put up in Berlin in 1961. It performed pretty well over 28 years, allowing only some 5,000 people to cross it illegally.

If Congress wants its anti-Mexican fence to be as effective, it should take some leaves out of the East German book. First, forget about lights and cameras; that's Hollywood stuff. Choose instead bunkers, anti-vehicle trenches, lots of concrete and even more barbed wire. Round all that off with minefields, booby-traps, tripwires and machinegun-posts. East Germany was virtually enclosed, so think big: the border barrier will have to be coast-to-coast, 3,200km long, and in the end a fence will not do. It will have to be a wall, as the East Germans discovered.
The leader is online only for subscribers. However the longer article, Shots across the border, is available for free.

Anyway, it's good to know at the Bush Administration (with it's generally sensible guest-worker program proposal, which is as of now, going nowhere) is opposed to this initiative.


St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

When I read your previous post on this bill, Welcome to Amerika, I wondered how any of this fit with GWB's guest worker program--not a popular topic with conservatives, at least the ones I hear on talk radio whilst driving about our fair city. Glad to know the White House isn't supporting it. Even with its diminished clout, lack of While House support will make it tougher to pass in an election year. We're well past 1968's "Nixon's the One" sloganeering, wherein the appearance of a tough law & order stance against "those illegal Mezkins" can assure an election win. There are plenty of House members whose district demographics (including those now on voter rolls) have changed enough in the past decade that I doubt anything this huge will pass in the form in which it was filed.

Besides, if we cannot engineer a wall to keep out one storm, how are we gonna keep out 10% of Mexico's population?

coray said...

um, the berlin wall? yes, this is just like what stalin would do.

the berlin wall was built to keep people in.

Gashwin said...

Um ... so? It was built to keep people in, yes. But it was also built to prevent people going across the border from one place to another. I believe the Economist's point is that this is the only kind of thing that can actually prevent the movement of people's across a border. A fence won't do it: it's impractical and ineffective.

Of course, there is the rhetorical effect of comparing the US with the Communist Bloc. :)

coray said...

The article is claiming moral equivalence. It compares a U.S. proposal to enforce its code of laws, immigration laws already on the books, to Communism.

Welcome to "Amerika"? Was it solidarity that inspired this lofty thought?

Gashwin said...

I hear that all the time: that we should enforce the immigration laws that we already have. That's all this is about.

Well the laws are at best inadequate (why the need for a guest-worker program, say, if it's all ok?) at worst immoral. And why this new law then? In all its draconian glory (hence Amerika. Think about it. A person who helps a dying man get to hospital is arrested because they're abetting an "illegal" If that's not draconian, I don't know what is). The other thing that the new law does (again, it's not yet law, so not yet already on the books) is define unlawful presence in terms of criminality, i.e. leading to prison (whereas under current legislation it leads to detention for "removal" i.e. deportation).

Choosing to view illegal aliens purely in terms of criminality is, in my opinion, hypocritical at best, without in any way acknowledging the other realities that gives rise to this phenomenon

I know your views on this -- I believe at one point you even suggested that those trying to cross over should be shot, though I don't know how serious you were about that. Frankly, I can see how building a largely ineffectual fence can lead to just that.

And if that's you think America needs to do to "defend" its borders from economic migrants then maybe there's something seriously whacky here. And the comparison to a fearful Communist bloc nation is not just rhetorical excess.

Solidarity? You bet.

And really, the Economist is not claiming moral equivalence (though my thoughts might be along those lines). It's saying "the only thing that can work is a wall. And do we really want that?"

coray said...

Ah. You're right.

Napoleon said...

You keep mentioning this concept of Solidarity. Are you kidding and saying that you as an immigrant (legal) are in solidarity with other immigrants (legal or illegal) or am I missing something?