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Today's Big Story

Bad Fences, Good Neighbours?

Bush approves 700 miles of new fencing on the Mexican border.

By Richard Warnica 27 Oct 2006 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a Tyee senior editor.

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With the GOP reeling ahead of the mid term elections and both houses of Congress now at risk Bush and company spent the week trying to shift the terms of the national debate.

On Wednesday, Bush softened his rhetoric on the unpopular Iraq war. A day later he used a New Jersey court ruling on same sex rights to rally his flagging conservative base.

The real big news though came Thursday in Washington, where Bush signed a bill approving 700 miles of new fencing along the Southern US border.

Last year alone, an estimated 1.2 million illegal immigrants were arrested trying to cross into the States from Mexico; the fence is meant to slow that tide. 

Mexico’s president-elect, in Canada Thursday visiting with Stephen Harper, called the planned fence “deplorable” and compared it to the Berlin wall.

Harper, however, quickly pointed out that Mexico and Canada were not in the same boat.

Meanwhile, an expert at an American legal think tank argued last year that fences are a waste of money.

“Border fencing has merely channeled undocumented migration to more remote and dangerous terrain,” wrote Jason, Ackleson an Assistant Professor of Government at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. “After triple-fencing was constructed in San Diego, apprehensions of undocumented immigrants fell from 450,152 in FY 1994 to 100,000 in FY 2002, but apprehensions in the Tucson sector increased 342 percent during this same period.”

Militarizing a border carries other risks as well, as this story by frequent Tyee and Walrus contributor Monte Paulsen shows.

One of the big US backers of a border crackdown is CNN’s Lou Dobbs.  And over at GlobalSecurity.org, Dobbs oft cited, rarely sourced 20 million illegals figure was used to justify the ‘Great Wall of Mexico:’ 

"The sea of illegal aliens provides a cover and an environment in which terrorists can hide, and the tide of in-coming illegal aliens provides terrorists with a reliable means of entry."

But Dobbs isn't satisfied. Dobbs wants more fence

But over at the libertarian U.S. think tank Cato Institute, American essayist Richard Rodriguez sees a bad fence making bad neighbours.

"In the end, this conflation of the cynical and the neurotic, this neurotic blurring of the peasant-worker with the terrorist could have the effect of creating exactly what America says it fears. If we are unable to distinguish the terrorist from the migrant worker, Americans will end up isolating illegal immigrants and their children from the mainstream, encouraging the adults to see themselves as mired in hopeless illegality, and their children to see themselves as off-spring of the undocumented, thus also criminal. And we will have Arabian Nights on a larger scale than those we witnessed last summer in Paris."  [Tyee]

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