Friday, March 17, 2006

Fence US in?

So there are moves in the US congress - supported by on of my Senators (Jon Kyl) - to fence America in. To build fences along the Mexican - and possibly Canadian borders - so that those pesky foreigners can not find their way into this peaceful and tranquil utopia we call America. It would seem that the creation of a fence on the southern border is a forgone conclusion (as the debate in the senate is about an "intelligent" v physical fence). I am all for better enforcement of immigration laws and believe that a nation has a right to defend herself from external aggression. However, I am not sure that blocking off part or all of the border should be the focus of the strategy.

Consider if you may the experience that Spain has had with its twin enclaves of Cueta and Melilla (ownership of islands disputed by Morocco). The Island of Melilla is fortified with a roughly 6 meter high fence, but this has not stopped African immigrants from trying to and successfully breaching it. Obviously the fence has stanched the flow somewhat, but it's not a final and lasting solution, Africans still find their way into Spain. The same can be said about the US border, the San Diego corridor was closed off in the early 90's, but migration simply shifted to the more dangerous Arizona corridor, and nobody can claim that fortifying the San Diego crossing has reduced immigration into America. Even if you block off all the land crossings, desperate folks are going to find ways to come in, whether swimming, burrowing or some other ingenious way, as it is said: "Necessity is the mother of Invention"

However, this is not to say that America should do nothing, I do agree that there needs to be more robust policing of the border to stanch the unmitigated flow of people into the country, however, one needs to also consider why these folks risk life and limb (and they do) to come to this country. Most believe that they have no opportunity for success in their home states and must cross treacherous terrain to reach the land of opportunity, may it be Europe or America.

If Americans are truly interested in dealing with the issue, they should not only focus on dealing with issues on their side, but also consider issues in the lands that contribute the bulk of immigrants. Jon Kyl should be in the forefront of working to deal with the economic inequalities that have forced many to live Mexico and travel to America, he should be in the forefront of many liberal attempts to deal with poverty and other social ills in Mexico and Central America. If he truly wants an effective strategy to eliminate immigration, he should be working to make Mexico and Central American states, economic powers, that would employ their people and rely less on Spain and Morocco seem to have realized this, and are working together to reduce illegal immigration from Morocco)

A multi pronged approach to this issue is the only way forward.