Thursday, June 26, 2008

Border fence

TIME's cover story this week is about the new U.S.-Mexico border fence:
The fence is not likely to win any architecture awards. It's a hodgepodge of designs. The best--sections of tall, concrete-filled steel poles deeply rooted, closely spaced and solidly linked at the top--are blatantly functional. The worst--rusting, graffiti-covered, Vietnam-era surplus--are just skeevy walls of welded junk. Whether you think it's a sad necessity of a crude brutality, the fence is not a sight that stirs pride. The operative question, however, is not, What does it look like? but How does it work?

The article goes on to detail the effects of the wall on immigration border areas such as Yuma, Tucson, and San Diego. Living in El Paso, it's interesting to see how other areas deal with immigration and "the fence." TIME's general conclusion is that the fence is a deterrent, but only in combination with other enforcement strategies, like more border patrol agents.

One thing the article fails to cover in detail is the controversies involved in actually building the fence. Congress has allowed the Department of Homeland Security to waive all sorts of laws in order to build the fence quickly. The DHS is planning to build a new section of fence nearby, and of course, it's a big issue here. People in El Paso are generally opposed to the fence and the hasty manner in which it is being put up. The city of El Paso, El Paso County, and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (which represents the Tigua Native American tribe) filed a lawsuit against the federal government last month to slow down the fence's construction. Reports the El Paso Times:
The department wants to build 670 miles of border fencing this year, and Chertoff has said he would use authority Congress gave him to waive more than 30 laws that could get in the way.
[El Paso County Attorney] Rodriguez said the waivers allow Chertoff to bypass federal, state and local laws that leave the county wondering which laws it can and cannot enforce.
Tom Diamond, lawyer for the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, said the Tigua tribe joined the lawsuit because the fence would impede access to parts of the Rio Grande where they have conducted religious ceremonies for centuries.

The U.S. government has the right to build the fence, but they need to do it the right way, with respect for local laws, Native American tribes, and the environment.

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