Whether or not Texas should build a fence to protect its border with Mexico is a controversial issue on all political levels. When dealing with this issue a question of whose responsibility it is to protect the borders. Naturally first responsibility would fall on the federal government as an issue of homeland security, but a question arises, what if the federal government is not doing enough? Texas state and local governments should have the right to control immigration as they see fit when the federal government has not stepped up to the responsibility.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, also known as FAIR, calculated approximately thirteen million illegal resident immigrants were residing in the United States of America as of 2007 (FAIR). Ten years ago, the estimation was drastically lower at about five million illegal resident immigrants. This significant rise in the number of illegal immigrants has put a financial burden on the United States taxpayers. The burden on border state taxpayers is even more so. “Texas’s illegal immigrant population is costing the state’s taxpayers more than $4.7 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration” (FAIR). Not only do the citizens of Texas and other border states face financial encumbrance, education for children of legal citizens is affected.
In an interview of Dallas Independent School District Teacher, Rachel Feeler, she revealed that many of the K-12 schools are being required to offer bilingual education programs for children of illegal immigrants. Many of these children are U.S. citizens because they were born in the United States. By having extensive bilingual programs in the school, funds for other programs are being cut. “It’s ridiculous how much effort is put into educating children that come from Spanish-speaking only families. The other children get their educations put to the side because we are so busy making sure the bilingual children understand the material” (Feeler). Ms. Feeler also expressed her grave concern for the children’s continuation of their education because at home all they here is Spanish and they do not properly retain their English teachings. As the issue of illegal immigration has become more apparent, the solution to this predicament according to many political figures is a border fence.
According to the Economist, the American government’s plans to build a fence along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border are underway (2 Oct 2008). By the end of 2008 the government “is suppose to have erected 670 mile of fencing.” The fence will vary in permeability. “Roughly half of the barrier is designed to stop everything bigger than a jackrabbit; the other half will let people through but stop vehicles”. According to David Von Drehle, the fence will cost about one million dollars per square mile. The cost of the barrier gives cause to evaluate the benefits and detriments of the fence.
Many groups of people oppose building a fence. In an article in Newsweek, Andrew Murr quotes Rodger Schlickeisen, the president of the Defenders of Wildlife, as saying that “laws protecting wildlife, land, rivers, streams . . . (were) just a bother to the Bush Administration.” Schlickeisen was reacting to the announcement made by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that “he would speed up construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexican border by sidestepping three dozen federal environmental laws”. Despite Chertoff’s claim that they are “committed to responsible environmental stewardship”, environmental leaders insist its “thousands of miles of wildlife habitat from Texas to California” (Murr) that are in jeopardy. This danger comes from cutting off the breeding of endangered species living in both countries. This could drive some species such as the jaguar or ocelot to extinction.
Others that oppose the fence, such as Eagle Pass, TX, Mayor Chad Foster, are having a harder time supporting their opposition to the fence than the environmentalists. While many “landowners have given the government access to their land” (Foxnews.com), Eagle Pass, TX refused to grant the federal government access to their bordering land. The federal government sued this small south Texas town under eminent domain laws. A judge ordered that the United States “is entitled to possession or control of the property as requested” (foxnews.com).
In other opposition to the fence, an article from www.globalsecurity.org described another route illegal immigrants are using to gain access to the United States:
Tunnel passages across an international border into the United States have become a real problem. There are forty such tunnels that have been discovered since 9/11. And the great bulk of them are on the southern border. Large-scale smuggling of drugs, weapons, and immigrants takes place today through these tunnels. One tunnel running from San Diego to Tijuana was marked by inordinate sophistication. It was a half mile long. It went sixty to eighty feet deep, eight feet tall. It had a concrete floor. It was wired for electricity. It had drainage(globalsecurity.org).
From a supporter’s point of view, the fence is very beneficial to the United States. Newsweek states that, “illegal immigration degrades the environment by trampling vegetation and littering border areas with tons of trash” (Murr). Ira Mehlman, spokesperson for FAIR says, “The tradeoff here is that we have compelling interest both from a national security point of view and also to stop massive immigration to get that fence completed.” Supporters of the fence insist that not only will it benefit the border states, but it will also benefit the rest of the United States by relieving financial stress caused by illegal immigration.
By spending the money to build the fence, the government is hoping to save enough to pay off the border fence and help the current financial crisis by not using as much money on illegal immigrants. Because of the significant cost in education, health care, and incarceration of illegal immigrants (FAIR), the fewer illegal immigrants there are, the more of taxpayer’s money will be used wisely. Murr reviews Lou Dobbs’ praise of Chertoff on air for “doing the right thing”, because he believes the fence will, in time, save the taxpayers’ money. By saying this Lou Dobbs is inferring that in order to stop illegal immigration, a fence along the United States-Mexico border is the only solution, and the faster it gets completed, the less tax money will be spent on caring for illegal immigrants.
Many important political figures support the building of the fence. The 2008 presidential candidates, McCain and Obama, support the border fence (Woodward); as well as current president, George W. Bush. Both Texas senators support the building of the fence to stop illegal immigration. In addition to political leaders, much of the media is also backing the building of the fence. CNN anchor Lou Dobbs pledged on air that his program officially backs the border fence.
Two colleges along the border of Texas and Mexico have teamed up to reinforce and renovate their existing border fence. University of Texas Brownsville and Texas Southernmost College and the federal government “arrived at an agreement that would leave the campus virtually unscathed, allowing for a renovation of existing fencing and the addition of cameras and sensors” (Seiff). The willingness of public places well known throughout border communities as well, as private landowners, to invest in this project is crucial to the advancement of the border fence construction.
As more private landowners’ start giving the federal government access to their land or start hiring minutemen by donating to their association, the fence along the border of the United States and Mexico becomes more complete every day (Texas Minutemen). The government’s solution to the illegal immigration problem is very different from perfect. However, by increasing border security with the fence, the federal government is showing that it recognizes the crisis at hand. When the fence is complete, the United States will see a drop in illegal immigration from Mexico.
Drehle, David Von. “The Great Wall of America.” Time (2008).
“FAIR: Costs of Illegal Immigration to Texans: Executive Summary.” 2008. Federation for American Immigration Reform. .
“FAIR: Immigration’s Impact on the U.S.” Federation for American Immigration Reform. .
Feeler, Rachel. Interview. Karen McCreight. 10 October 2008.
“Good neighbours make fences.” Economist (2 Oct 2008): 25-27.
Murr, Andrew. “Parry and Thrust.” Newsweek (2008).
Seiff, Kevin. “Border fence construction to begin at UTB-TSC.” The Brownsville Herald (TX) 3 October 2008.
“Texas city Ordered to Turn Over Land to Feds for Border Fence Construction.” 16 January 2008. FoxNews.com. .
Texas Minutemen. .
US-Mexico Border Fence/Great Wall of Mexico. .
Woodward, Calvin. “Where McCain, Obama stand on the issues.” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.