Two weeks before the 2006 midterm elections, President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act into law. It stated that within 18 months, “the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors,” along more than 700 miles of the United States’ southern border.
A number of misconceptions surround the Secure Fence Act, the first of which is the use of the term “fence”. Likely chosen to evoke images of the picket fence that separates suburban neighbors, the barriers that have been built to date along the southern border more closely resemble the Berlin Wall. In California and Arizona rusted steel plates that were formerly used as landing strips in the Vietnam war have been driven into the earth to create walls that are 15 feet tall. South of San Diego this was further reinforced, the final result being 3 layers of concrete, steel, and barbed wire, with a graded road and 50 feet on either side cleared of all vegetation. Similar walls are slated for more than 800 miles of the border, with construction costs estimated at over $46 billion. These will rip through border communities and wildlife refuges alike.
Many border communities were established before Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California were added to the United States. Cities split by the border into sister cities have retained close ties. The United States enjoys a close friendship as well as strong economic ties to Mexico. Citizens and organizations in Mexico from the President on down have expressed dismay at the implied message that we prefer separation to cooperation. In 1999 the “Millennium Bomber” was caught at the Canadian border with explosives in the trunk of his car, but no terrorist has been apprehended crossing our border with Mexico.
The border wall is all about politics and punditry, not national security. The Border Patrol has repeatedly said that it will only slow a crosser down by 5 minutes, and Secretary Chertoff has characterized it as symbolic. Politicians who wanted to strut before the cameras ahead of the midterm election, claiming that they would defend the US without having to mention Iraq, pushed the Secure Fence Act. The act claims that it will secure all land and sea borders even though no wall will be built along the Canadian border and no thought is given to the coasts. We are set to destroy our borderlands for a false sense of security. It is time to end this farce.
This blog is affiliated with the No Border Wall group and website, http://www.notexasborderwall.com/ . All who oppose the destruction to communities and the environment that will accompany the wall are urged to get involved. The website has information on events and petitions, but it is equally important that people from all over the United States contact their elected officials and express their opposition to the border wall. Urge your House members to support the Borderlands Conservation and Security Act, which modifies the Secure Fence Act and repeals the worst abuses of the Real ID Act. Urge your Senators to introduce a companion bill. Better yet, they should repeal both the Secure Fence Act and Real ID Act in their entirety. These laws are on the books now, so we do not have the luxury of hoping that sanity will prevail and they will evaporate. We must act now.