America’s Berlin Wall

Maybe now the hysterics about undocumented immigration will die down. There has to be a bright side to the dismal culmination of the 109th Congress’ immigration reform that wasn’t.

Just as they were heading out for the mid-term election recess, the Senate passed legistlation that will authorize the construction of a 700 mile double layer fence along sections of the U.S. Mexico border. This measure is but one bad decision of many, an act that will make the U.S. immigration problems go from bad to worse. To be fair, that’s only if you’re looking at the results of the beefed-up border enformcement that began in the mid 1980s. If you’re not fussed about the small issues like, will it actually work, you probably won’t see a problem here.

Since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Congress has taken steps to fortify our borders with more border patrol agents, more fencing, and more penalities for those undocumented workers who have been apprended. Yet here we are, in 2006, with an estimated 12 million undocumented persons living in the U.S. Ever wonder why the numbers of undocumented people in the U.S. has grown, despite our increased attempts to keep them out? Here’s the answer: When the U.S. border becomes more difficult and expensive to cross, undocumented people, many of whom were once (and would still prefer to be) seasonal migrant workers are less likely to try to go home. Instead, they hunker down where they have settled, they put down roots, establish longer and deeper relationships, and eventually come to see the U.S. as their home.

So, to anyone who is out there celebrating the passage of the Border Fence Bill, remember that fences are more often set up to keep people and things in than to keep them out (remember the Berlin Wall?). We had a remarkable opportunity to renovate an immigration system that serves only the industries and businesses that are eager to hire pliable and vulnerable workers. It may appear that Congress has done its job, but as time will no doubt tell, they’ve just ensured that our undocumented population will grow.

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