Keeping in line with a famous quote passed down from a Robert Frost poem, "Good fences make good neighbors," policymakers in the House of Representatives have resorted to passing a punitive bill targeting illegal immigrants. The Sensenbrenner bill, which will be debated on the Senate floor later this month, has the trappings of a draconian doctrine.
Measures within the bill call for the construction of a wall alongside the Mexican border, which would extend for more than 1,000 kilometers. In addition, the bill would make illegal entry into the United States a felony and anyone found aiding illegal immigrants would incur punishment.
Apart from its xenophobic nature, the Sensenbrenner bill's fundamental flaw lies in its issuing of a simple solution to a complex problem. Let's juxtapose the Sensenbrenner bill with the New Orleans levee system for a moment. The levee system in New Orleans was essentially built to safeguard a strategic port city from flooding. Being around 10-feet below sea level and with increasingly deteriorated wetlands, New Orleans' flood vulnerability posed a highly complex problem. Authorities reluctant to couple a complex problem with a complex solution opted instead to build levees.
One hurricane plus scores of displaced and dead people later, it seems as though our simple solution caught up with us in the end. A long-term solution to the problem confronting New Orleans would have been tighter restrictions on wetland degradation and steady efforts to relocate the city on safer terrain. More succinctly, my point is that building a wall or levee around a problem is not a solution – but an invitation to further problems.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush offered a more pragmatic proposal to the immigration problem. Mr. Bush called on Congress to adopt "a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally and reduces smuggling and crime at the border."
Another bill, proposed last year by Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy and Republican Sen. John McCain, would incorporate an earned-amnesty provision to Bush's plan. In other words, illegal immigrants would be given a limited degree of residential status based on evidence suggesting that they are not imposing a burden on society.
Another issue linked with immigration reform concerns funding for border control. While, over the course of 12 years, the federal government has spent $20 billion on border control, many lawmakers argue that such a sum is not sufficient. Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, who represents the sixth district of Colorado, is at the forefront in this debate.
In an interview with "60 Minutes," Tancredo was asked how much more the government should spend in order to secure the borders. Without a moment's hesitation, Tancredo responded, "Whatever it takes." This should come as no surprise for someone that was awarded an A+ by the Americans for Better Immigration lobbying group. In stark contrast to Tancredo's report card, Sens. John McCain and Edward Kennedy were handed an F and a D respectively.
Indeed, Tancredo has been adamant in his opposition to immigration. As Chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus, he has proven to be unrelenting in his efforts to tighten caps on both legal and illegal immigration flows, advocating in favor of the Sensenbrenner bill, and has jokingly remarked that if a wall were to be erected along the Mexican border, it should be named after him.
I am curious as to whether Tancredo, the grandson of Italian immigrants, is glad that American politicians did not endorse his views on immigration during the time his relatives were entering the country. I have contacted Tancredo with this question, but have not as of yet received a response.
So, do good fences make good neighbors? Perhaps, we should look back at how Robert Frost responded to this question:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a junior double majoring in political science and philosophy. Her columns run every Friday in the Collegian.