Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Wall

Salon today has an excellent article about the environmental devastation a border fence along Texas and Mexico would create, particularly to an endangered group of ocelots, that used to hunt through Eastern Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, but now number as few as 125. The hateful wall would cut right through the middle of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Nature Wildlife Refuge, and could threaten one of the largest wildlife refuges in the country.

In Texas, 225 miles of fencing will begin to be installed this fall. A large percentage of that fencing will be built in the valley along the unique river bank and habitat that follows the Rio Grande. It would cut across more than a dozen refuges and parks totaling more than 100,000 acres. Critics warn the fence and its accompanying patrol roads will sever critical wildlife corridors on the animals' natural territories. Animals depend on these corridors to reach mates, and seek food and water. If the fence is installed, says Martin Hagne, director of the nonprofit Valley Nature Center, "it will be a huge catastrophe." Hagne is a member of an unusual coalition of environmentalists, local farmers, ranchers and local business interests fighting the fence.

Border fences would also require high-speed patrol roads next to it, and to access it which would have a huge impact on local wildlife. In places, the swath of fence and roads could become 150 yards wide. "Building a 150-foot wide strip of fencing and two roads is going to have a major impact on wildlife," says Ernesto Reyes, an ecology services biologist for Fish and Wildlife in the valley. At the Southmost Preserve, where Najera pointed out the animal tracks, it's easy to recognize an established watering spot. Yet the earthen berm where the security fence would likely be built is just yards away. Animals might have to travel miles out of their way to find a new watering spot. And road kills on improved patrol roadways will increase, Reyes says.

In Arizona, Homeland Security worked closely with the Sierra Club and the local Wildlife Federation, but eventually invoked its power to bypass Federal requirements and upgraded the wall to be "impenetrable, with no consultation whatsoever. Not to mention the tourism dollars it will suck up for areas like McAllen, who take in over $34 million a year in wildlife tourism.

It's a depressing story, but I realize that people in support of this wall care about very little but their own homogenized cultures and personal comforts. I've always thought it was nothing but a hateful, mean-spirited and hostile symbol, not to mention that most experts deem it totally irrelevant.

Homeland Security argues the Rio Grande fence will deter illegal immigration. Yet the Border Patrol's Rio Grande sector itself has raised questions about whether it would make much of a difference. Its sector office told the Government Accountability Office in 2005 that the rugged geography of the area in the Rio Grande sector, which includes the Lower Valley river corridor and especially the rugged thorn brush country inland from the river, creates its own impenetrable fencing.

"The brush (inland from the river corridor) is so dense with sage, scrub brush and cacti that it has created an inhospitable environment for … smugglers or illegal aliens," the report states. Because there are only two highways leading north from the Lower Valley, the local Border Patrol stated that it could intercept illegal immigration within its existing checkpoints. In fact, from 2000 to 2005, the number of apprehensions reported by the local Border Patrol climbed from 108,000 to 134,000, according to a report by Syracuse University.

It kind of just makes me want to move to Mexico.


bryan h. said...

I think the best argument against building a border wall is that the people who actually have experience with life along the border, or enforcing the border, are almost always against it. The biggest, loudest advocates for building longer, bigger fences are almost always people from the north states.

They also tend, ironically, to be republicans. The party of local control and small government doesn't want to hear the opinions of the people on the ground, with the practical, day-to-day experience. Not even George W. Bush, as big-government a republican as is out there, thinks it's a good idea.

Fox said...

I think y'alls concerns about the people along the border are valid, and I'm typically not a fan of eminent domain, but I think in this case the fence is needed.

Since the Congress "promised" to do a better job of enforcing the borders after Reagan gave amnesty to illegals in 1986, the amount of illegals entering the U.S. has quadrupled (and that estimate is likely a conservative one...).

If by man power, drones, partial fencing, automobile barriers, cameras etc. the border patrol cannot put an end to the flow of illegals then I see no other solution to the problem than to build a fence.

Now if you don't think illegal immigration is a problem AT ALL, then we're probably having a pointless chat, but I personally would like to see the issue addressed... even if it means spending billions on a fence.

And I would also disagree about the loudest voices being from the North. Surely there are some, but having grown up in South Texas, and having family from the Valley, I know it's a very important issue for people in the southwestern states.

Having said all of that, I have no confidence in our politicians to do anything about the border. I can't see any of the "serious" 2008 candidates OKing any funding for it (even though Clinton, Brownback, Biden, and McCain voted FOR more fencing last year).

bryan h. said...

I do appreciate that there are southerners who genuinely believe a fence is necessary, or who are just so frustrated by the lack of an immigration policy that reflects the new era. I agree with you, too, that our best chance at any kind of reform is past for at least a few years (I really thought Bush was on the right track on this issue).

But, then, I only think the border security is a problem to th extent that it makes it easier to smuggle in terrorists or weapons. The fact that Mexican nationals come across to find work doesn't bother me at all; I'm all for making it easier for them to cross back and forth. I really do think our economy would take a serious hit without them.

Fox said...

I agree with you on the economic contribution they bring, and I think many illegals that come over are well-intentioned, hard working people. That's why I am for legalizing the illegals here NOW if the government would just stop the bleeding FIRST. I would support another full-scale "amnesty" if we were assured of it being the last time.

I don't think deportation is the answer - nor feasible - UNLESS they are criminals, gangmembers, disease carriers, etc. That's why I think we should have a swifter legalized process for people that want to come over for the right intentions.

Why we can't DO THAT - speed up the paper filing, background checks, health screenings etc. - I just don't get.

It's a totally fascinating and complicated topic, I think. There are so many avenues to take and explore. Both sides, I think, have valid arguments.

For instance, I've read good points on both sides of the "They are doing jobs Americans won't do" debate. On one hand, I agree that you just won't see many teenagers lining up to pick oranges or lettuce for a summer job. But on the OTHER hand, I think employers specifically hire illegals to work at Wendy's, Chili's, and Mom & Pop restaurants instead of paying regular wages to American youth. I think a lot of legal American construction workers/manual labor workers get screwed out of work all the time for that same "cost savings" reason.