A Very Expensive Nothing

March 6 2007, 10:01 PM
The Denver Post has been running a series on controlling the borders of the United States, a series which includes the revelation that a giant wall near Mexico might not be such a good idea:
A 10-foot-high wall snakes along the U.S.-Mexico border south of here, and behind it another fence, steel mesh and even higher. Cameras sit atop 50-foot poles, and stadium lights can turn night here to day. It's a daunting sight that looks utterly secure. Until you notice the dozens of divots. "Everywhere you see a divot, that's where someone has gone over with a ladder," said Damon Foreman, a young Border Patrol agent, pointing to the nicks across the top of the secondary fence. Sold for $5 on the Mexican side, the ladders are made of rebar and can be carried with one hand at a quick run. "Ten guys are over that fence in a minute," Foreman said. For Department of Homeland Security officials trying to secure the country's land borders, it's a hard lesson: A $5 ladder trumps a $30 million fence. In the multibillion-dollar effort to build a Fortress America, nothing has gained as much attention as the effort to wall off America's borders through a combination of one of the oldest technologies in the world - the fence - and some of the newest - advanced radar, infrared cameras, minidrones… … It will be a watershed effort, with a price tag to match. Scheduled to be completed on the U.S.-Mexico border by 2011, the project is estimated by Department of Homeland Security officials to cost $7.6 billion.
Let me be the first to say this: No shit. Of course building a giant wall along the Mexican border is a stupid idea. We're talking about a 2,000-mile long piece of land here. Unless the U.S. (or Halliburton) has some sort of controlling interest in a Mexican ladder company, this seems like a colossal waste of money. Think of it this way: If you built a fence around your neighborhood, do you think that nobody would ever get in? Okay, so your fence wouldn't include seismic sensors, which means that you wouldn't be able to detect an earthquake trying to sneak in your ‘hood, but the same general principle applies here. The Mexican border is just too large of an area to enclose effectively with a fence. The fence is too big to patrol, which means that there are too many places for people to just climb over using a ladder. Which means that the fence is pointless. But we have cameras positioned everywhere! Fine. I'm sure someone who is going to jump the border and use false identification is really concerned about being caught on a video camera. If you don't know who he is when he jumps the fence, and you can't know who he is when he starts working in the U.S., then who the hell cares if you know what he looks like? Now, I'm not criticizing the wall because I disagree that we need better border security. I absolutely think that we need to tighten our borders, but a ginormous fence is quite clearly not the answer. If we are going to insist on some sort of physical deterrent, then why don't we build a moat? I would have to think that it would be a lot cheaper to dig a big-ass trench than it would be to build a big-ass fence. We could fill the moat with sharks and alligators, and then we could let tigers patrol the banks. Did you know that there are more tigers in Texas than there are anywhere in the world except for India? It's true – look it up. We've got a ready-made supply of border patrol guards, and they don't even need health insurance. I really don't know what the answer is to securing our borders, but it should be blatantly obvious that this ridiculous fence is not the answer. I think Republicans probably didn't have a good answer, either, so they decided that building a fence would make it look like they were doing something. I guess something is better than nothing. Even if that something is just a really expensive nothing.