Last updated on: 5/18/2009 12:23:00 PM PST

Was a Fence along the US Mexico Border a Good Solution to Illegal Immigration?

PRO (yes) CON (no)
George W. Bush, MBA, President of the United States, during the Oct. 26, 2006 signing of the "Secure Fence Act of 2006":
"I'm pleased that you all are here to witness the signature of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure. It is an important step toward immigration reform...

The bill authorizes the construction of hundreds of miles of additional fencing along our southern border...We're modernizing the southern border of the United States so we can assure the American people we're doing our job of securing the border. By making wise use of physical barriers and deploying 21st century technology we're helping our Border Patrol agents do their job."

Oct. 26, 2006 - George W. Bush, MBA 

Duncan Hunter, JD, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (R-CA), stated on his presidential campaign website (accessed Oct. 15, 2007):
"I know fencing helps secure our nation’s borders because criminal activity in every statistical category has been eliminated or decreased since we built the border fence in San Diego County. What was once a porous border, susceptible to illegal aliens, drug trafficking and terrorism, is now the standard mode in preventing drug smugglers from bringing narcotics into our neighborhoods and allowing border enforcement personnel to reinforce areas of greater need.

These results led me to write the Secure Fence Act, extending the San Diego fence 854 miles across California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Building fences in strategic locations along our international borders is a proven method of keeping America safe and, despite recent attempts to undo the Congressional mandated funding provided for this effort, I am committed to this effort and confident the fence will be built."

Oct. 15, 2007 - Duncan Hunter, JD 

Let Freedom Ring, a nonprofit, conservative organization, stated on its We Need A Fence project website (accessed Oct. 15, 2007):
"Why is a fence the right solution?

A secure, state-of-the-art border fence must be one element of any comprehensive effort to address the illegal immigration problem. Similar fences in Israel have reduced terrorist attacks by up to 95%...

A border fence is entirely compatible with a guest worker program. In fact, a guest worker program would be reduced to irrelevance without such a fence."

Oct. 15, 2007 - Let Freedom Ring 

Ralph Basham, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in an Aug. 4, 2006 session of "Ask the White House":
"Fences are an important part of our border security strategy because fences help Border Patrol agents on the ground have a tactical advantage over the smugglers on the southern side of the border. Certainly in urban settings such as El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California, fences have proven to be quite effective in stemming the flow of illegal entry...

The goal is to detect intrusions, rapidly respond and resolve the situation by apprehension; and fences are a key component to that strategy."

Aug. 4, 2006 - Ralph Basham 

Lou Dobbs, Anchor and Managing Editor for Cable News Network (CNN)'s Lou Dobbs Tonight, stated on a Jan. 12, 2007 episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight:
"Well, it's obviously not just a fence. It is far more than that, symbolically as well, an effective deterrent. Most people think against illegal immigration and those that would cross the border with an intent to harm us, but whatever it is, it would be the principal mainstay against illegal immigration and unlawful entry into this country whether by terrorists or illegal immigrants."

Jan. 12, 2007 - Lou Dobbs 

Edwin S. Rubenstein, MA, President of Edwin S. Rubenstein (ESR) Research Economic Consultants, in an Oct. 17, 2006 section titled "Immigration Diagnosed In ER Emergency," wrote:
"A modest proposal: cut off Emergency Room demand at the border. Finish the wall, enforce the employer sanctions already on the books— and cut off legal immigration with a moratorium."

Oct. 17, 2006 - Edwin S. Rubenstein, MA 

Dan Stein, JD, President of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in a FAIR website article titled "An Immigration Reform Agenda for the 110th Congress" (accessed Sep. 12, 2007), stated:
"The first step to solving our illegal immigration problem is to secure the border. The Census Bureau estimates that over 500,000 illegal aliens enter the United States every year. While this number is in part made up of visa over-stayers and not border-crossers, the fact is that over one million aliens are caught attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border every year. Until sufficient resources and manpower are placed at the border to stop the influx of illegal aliens, the problem will continue to get worse."

Sep. 12, 2007 - Dan Stein, JD 

The US Border Patrol Local 2544, in its website section titled "Si Se Puede" (accessed Oct. 10, 2007), stated:
"With the right equipment, infrastructure, manpower, technology, and freedom to do our jobs (without excessive interference from some politicians and a few bad managers), we can secure our borders. If an effective plan is implemented to prosecute those who violate our immigration laws, and the resources are put in place to house prisoners, we will see a dramatic drop-off in arrests and illegal crossings. Entering this country without permission is a crime, regardless of what Senator John McCain and Governor Rudy Giuliani say. 8 USC 1325 [U.S. Code, Title 8, Section 1325: Improper entry by alien] is extremely clear."

Oct. 10, 2007 - U.S. Border Patrol Local 2544 

Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico, in an Oct. 26, 2006 CTV (Canadian national broadcast news) article titled "Mexico Urges Canada to Help Oppose Border Fence," stated:
"It is deplorable to go ahead with this decision of the wall at the border...The wall will not solve any problem.

Humanity made a huge mistake by building the Berlin Wall and I believe that today the United States is committing a grave error in building the wall on our border. It is much more useful to solve common problems and foster prosperity in both countries."

Oct. 26, 2006 - Felipe Calderón, MPA 

Rick Perry, the Republican Governor of Texas, was quoted in an Aug. 28, 2007 Reuters article titled "Texas Gov Says U.S. Needs Migrants, Not Border Wall":
"We need those individuals to continue to grow our economy...

If you show up illegally, without your card or you're here as a criminal element, I'm for throwing the book at those folks, but the issue of people who want to legally, thoughtfully and appropriately come to America to work and help us build our economy -- we should quickly come up with a program and an identification card to do that...

We know how to deal with border security, and you don't do it by building a fence."

Aug. 28, 2007 - Rick Perry 

No Border Wall, a grassroots organization, stated on its homepage (accessed Oct. 15, 2007):
"NO BORDER WALL is a grassroots coalition of groups and individuals united in our belief that a border wall will not stop illegal immigration or smuggling and will not make the United States any safer. A border wall tells the world that we are a fearful nation, not a strong and confident nation, and that we are unable to address difficult issues in an intelligent and meaningful way. It will do irreparable harm to our borderlands and our country as a whole. Many of us live on the border, and we know what will be lost if a wall tears through our communities, farms, and natural areas."

Oct. 15, 2007 - No Border Wall 

Jason Ackleson, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, in an Apr. 2005 Immigration Policy in Focus article titled "Fencing in Failure: Effective Border Control Is Not Achieved by Building More Fences," stated:
"Short of constructing a wall along the country’s entire southern and northern frontiers, it is unlikely these measures [additional fencing and additional Border Patrol agents] will do anything to substantially reduce the flows of undocumented immigrants into the United States. Even if such a wall were built – which would itself be a counterproductive development – it would do nothing to deal with the fact that up to half of the undocumented immigrants in the United States came legally and simply have overstayed the conditions of their admittance.

Furthermore, the cost of such a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, if based roughly on the cost of the California fence ($4.64 million/mile), would be outrageous – about $9 billion, which is approximately $2.5 billion more than CBP’s [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] total budget in FY 2005...Ironically, another obvious shortcoming of the border fence was illustrated just as the debate on this issue made the national press: Mexican authorities located an incomplete tunnel underneath the fence."

Apr. 2005 - Jason Ackleson, PhD 

Tony Zavaleta, PhD, Vice President of External Affairs at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, was quoted on the No Border Wall website (accessed Oct. 17, 2007):
"In my forty odd years of studying the U.S.-Mexico border I have never seen anything suggested by either government that is so wrong headed and destructive to our communities and our people as this border wall."

Oct. 17, 2007 - Tony Zavaleta, PhD 

Frida Berrigan, MA, Senior Program Associate of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, in an Apr. 25, 2007 Albuquerque Tribune article titled "President Bush Needs to Treat the U.S.-Mexico Border As a Line Between Two Neighbors, Not a War Zone," wrote:
"[T]he heart of President Bush's effort is the Secure Border Initiative. As with so many other pressing issues - from terrorism to oil dependency - the White House is turning to the military-industrial complex for a solution. The initiative is the Department of Homeland Security's plan to erect a 'virtual fence' of monitors, sensors, unmanned planes and communications to help border agents catch illegal immigrants crossing the southern border... To put military contractors, particularly Boeing, in charge of building the Secure Border Initiative is a recipe for disaster. But the issue of militarizing the border goes beyond questions of accountability. To craft truly effective, humane and 'comprehensive' immigration reform, the president will have to do a lot more than show up once in a while. He has to learn that the border is not a war zone, Mexicans are not combatants, and military contractors are not the solution."

Apr. 25, 2007 - Frida Berrigan, MA 

Douglas S. Massey, PhD, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, in a Mar. 20, 2007 testimony before the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law titled "When Less is More: Border Enforcement and Undocumented Migration," stated:
"The migrants got wise and simply went around built-up sectors and crossed through empty deserts, sparsely populated ranch land, and wild sections of the Rio Grande... The financial costs of border-crossing were nonetheless driven upward... the average cost of hiring a coyote or border smuggler tripled... Unfortunately, however, Mexicans did not respond to the new costs and risks of border crossing by deciding not to migrate... the probability that a Mexican male or female would decide to undertake a first undocumented trip to the U.S. changed little from 1980 to the present. For men the probability has fluctuated between 1% and 2% while for females it has never exceeded a fraction of 1%. Rather than responding to the increased costs and risks of border crossing by staying home, Mexicans without documents instead hunkered down and stayed once they had successfully achieved entry. ...they postponed their return to remain longer in the United States and as they did so rates of return migration steadily fell... U.S. census data [shows] how the rate of Mexican population growth in the United States accelerated during the 1990s compared with the 1980s and earlier. The ultimate effect of restrictive border policies was to double the net rate of undocumented population growth, making Hispanics the nation’s largest minority years before Census Bureau demographers had projected—not because more Mexicans were coming but because fewer were going home."

Mar. 20, 2007 - Douglas S. Massey, PhD 

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