Fencing futility

October 29, 2006

Probably the best that can be said about the new law ordering construction of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border is that even the barrier's most ardent advocates doubt it will ever be built.

Very little money has been approved to pay for it. The proposed route runs through state and county parks, two national wildlife refuges and an Indian reservation - likely encountering resistance at every point. And the agriculture industry and other employers who depend on illegal immigrants are protesting a shrunken labor pool.

Most important - though immaterial to the lawmakers eager to impress voters with their determination to secure the nation's borders - history suggests a wall of any sort won't keep out, or keep in, people willing to risk everything to find a better life.

Some beefed-up border security makes sense, particularly if electronic virtual fences can be used to protect sensitive environmental areas. But fencing can't solve what is essentially an economic problem.

It's a sad commentary that politicians seeking votes are bragging about creating a barricade between longtime peaceful neighbors - possibly also including Canada - that those neighbors regard as not only useless but offensive. At least if it doesn't get built, it won't have to be torn down.

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