Border Fence Debate

History and Debate of Border Fence

The Mexico-United States barrier is the subject of a great deal of controversy in the United States. Also known as the border wall or border fence, it is constructed of several barriers that are intended to keep illegal Mexican immigrants from traveling across the border into the United States. The barriers were originally built as part of a three prong operation to curtail drug transportation routes from Latin America as well as illegal immigration. Operation Gatekeeper is in California, Operation Safeguard is in Arizona and Operation Hold-the-Line is in Texas.

The placement of the barriers was a strategic effort to mitigate the flow of illegal border crossings into the Southwest part of the United States. Unfortunately, opponents of the barriers claim that they are a drain on taxpayers' money and more of a political gambit. They see the Mexico-United States barrier as an ineffective deterrent to illegal immigration that ultimately and inappropriately jeopardizes the safety and health of people seeking sanctuary in the United States. Other concerns involve the impact on the environment with regards to animal habitats and migration patterns.

The border itself between Mexico and United States is fraught with a mix of urban and desert terrain and spans over 1,900 miles. Both the uninhabited areas of the border and urban areas are where the most drug trafficking and illegal crossings take place. Crime is prevalent in urban cities like El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California. The border is constructed of a series of short walls and virtual fence areas that are monitored by Border Patrol Agents through a system of cameras and sensors. In the last 13 years, over 5,000 migrant deaths occurred along the border according to a document from the Human Rights National Commission of Mexico.

In 2005, United States Representative Duncan Hunter from California proposed a plan to construct reinforced fencing along the entire border, including a 100-yard border zone on the United States side. An amendment to the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 was passed that called for mandatory fencing along 698 miles of the border. As a result of the legislation, the government of Mexico, as well as ministers of several Latin American countries, condemned the construction plans. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, expressed his dissatisfaction and indicated that the border should be open with a technologically supported safe and legal migration. Residents of Laredo, Texas were also displeased as they were concerned about the economic ramifications of the fence.

Public Opinion - The Border Defense Debate

In 2006, a CNN poll showed that most Americans preferred the idea of more Border Patrol Agents rather than a 700 mile fence. Congress revisited the fence plans in 2007 as they wanted to see a comprehensive border security plan, and senators from Texas advocated a revision. The Secretary of Homeland Security was able to see the fence plan to fruition without any legal recourse due to a rider attached to the Real ID Act of 2005. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act were all waived when fencing was extended through a research reserve near San Diego, California. The United States Department of Homeland Security and United States Customs and Border Protection spent over $40 million and earmarked $50 million more to determine the adverse effects the fence would have on the environment. Despite these measures, by January 2010, the fence project from Yuma, Arizona to San Diego, California was completed. In March 2010, President Barack Obama froze the expansion of the virtual fence to use the money to upgrade current border technology.

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