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Monday, November 28, 2005
By Steven L. Taylor

One of the reasons I have a hard time with the idea of building a two-thousand mile fence from Brownsville to the Pacific is wholly philosophical. The behavior that such a fence is intended to punish is the very embodiment of the American dream–in fact, of the dream of democracy and of capitalism: self-improvement through personal hard work and sacrifice. There is no denying that the the main motivation for illegal crossing of the US-Mexican border is for precisely that reason.

The fence in Israel is designed to keep murderers from blowing up caf├ęs filled with innocent people; there can be no qualms about such a preventive measures. However, when we are discussing illegal immigrants who risk their lives to cross the open desert, we are talking about human beings seeking a better economic circumstance for themselves and their families. One has to respect that. One doesn’t have to have open borders, but one has to respect what is going on here. Yes, it is a crime to cross the border without permission; and yes, some of those who cross the border do so with specific illegality in mind beyond the crossing (i.e., drug running–although most drugs do not enter via the vast deserts between Mexico and the United States, but rather via legitimate border crossings–it is simply easier to do it that way). However, the vast majority of the persons who might be stopped by a fence are not coming to commit crimes, they are coming to work. Again: on some fundamental level, one has to respect that fact.

Further, the fact of the matter is that the US economy does benefit from immigrant labor, and specifically from illegal immigrant labor. Given that as a society we are hardly without benefit or blameless, it is further difficult for me to want to see electrified chain-link and barbed wire for miles and miles and miles on the US frontier.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not calling for open borders (although I will confess, on the spectrum between wholly sealed borders and open ones, my position is on the more open side of the equation). Some things call for massive fences, and some things do not. Stopping the Mongol hordes is a worthy security goal for a wall; stopping Pablo from cleaning up the Las Cruces McDonalds isn’t.

Beyond all of that, which I think is actually quite important, I continue to maintain that I have sincere doubts about the efficacy of such a structure and believe that the billions that would be required to construct, maintain and patrol it could be better spent in a host of ways.

Given the nature of the action a fence seeks to deter, the fact that US economy benefits from illegal immigrants, and the cost/efficacy issues, I cannot support the idea of a fence across the US-Mexican border.

This is perhaps not the best elucidation of this line of thinking, but as I like to say, this place is for a rough draft of my thoughts. I also know that many will disagree with the premise proffered here. So it goes. For me, however, at some level people are people. We can’t ignore that fact and still be true to our own American democratic values that we hold so dear. If we forget that basic truth, then we cannot claim to be a shining city on a hill that others should look to and emulate.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Clearly, immigration has become “the” topic all of a sudden. For example, my piece in the paper yesterday and the discussion as identified by Scott Gosnell (who links to several other recent posts on the subject elsewhere).

Via Reuters: Bush to tackle immigration on Mexican border – Yahoo! News

Fueled by fears of terrorists slipping into the country, escalating violence and drug smuggling, Americans have become increasingly worried about illegal immigration. More than three-quarters think the government is not doing enough to control the borders, according to a CBS News poll last month.

Given that the 911 terrorists all came into the country legally, I am not sure that this is as big a concern as people make it out to be. Even if we sealed off Mexico with a 500 foot high concrete wall, it isn’t as if terrorists couldn’t get into the country. I am sympathetic to the concern, but it strikes me as really a non-issue. If al Qaeda wants to get into the US, it doesn’t need to go through Mexico.

And, at least in a general sense, I support the idea of a guest worker program.

In Tucson, Arizona, on Monday and El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday, Bush will focus on border security, portraying his temporary worker program — which some Republicans say rewards lawbreakers — as a way to relieve pressure on enforcement by bringing illegal immigrants “out of the shadows.”

It seems to me that it would help funnel the economic supply and demand issues with the proper incentive structure and would allow for more control of flow.

Of course no system will utterly eliminate illegal aliens entering the US from the South and a guest worker program beats building a wall.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The revamping of the Ecosystem is underway: The Truth Laid Bear: Ecosystem Updates in Progress.

No word yet on exactly what changes the Bear has made to the algorithms that create the rankings.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via ESPN: Eagles file complaint vs. Cowboys

“In general, I am a risk-taker. We’ve gone down that road,” Jones said when asked if the Cowboys might be interested in Owens. “I probably have a propensity to try and make things work. … A top receiver could flourish with Drew Bledsoe. That’s always appealing.”

First off: UGH—I do not want T.O. on the Cowboys. He is clearly poison in terms of team chemistry and I just don’t see it as a good move, despite his obvious talent.

Second: this strikes me as silly in terms of tampering. Although I suppose that Jones should have just kept his mouth shut on the subject.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Uribe announces re-election bid

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has officially announced he will stand for re-election next May.

[...]

Mr Uribe’s current Vice-President, Francisco Santos, will be his running mate in the election to be held on 28 May.

No surprises there.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The NYT has some additional information on the arrests I noted yesterday regarding the Saddam trial in this piece: Hussein’s Trial Resumes in Baghdad.

Specifically: the number of individual arrested is now reported at 10 and the piece also deals with the issue the premature reports of Ibrahim’s death:

The allegation against Mr. Ibrahim came two weeks after an apparently false report that he had died appeared on a Web site operated by loyalists of Mr. Hussein’s banned Baath Party. The American military command said it was treating the report as disinformation, and even the Baath Web site later withdrew it.

American commanders have identified Mr. Ibrahim, 63, as perhaps the major leader of the insurgency’s Baathist wing, and an architect of the alliance it has struck with Islamic militants who have carried out many of the war’s bloodiest attacks.

More on the plot against the court:

General Qader, the Kirkuk police commander, said the raids that uncovered the plot to kill Mr. Juhi had also found three car bombs ready to be driven to targets, as well as other documents linking the men seized in the raids to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy to Osama bin Laden. He said the document ordering Mr. Juhi’s assassination was signed with a pseudonym, “Sheik of the Mujahedeen,” and that the captured men, one of them a former secret police officer under Mr. Hussein, had said that that was the title used by Mr. Ibrahim.

In regards to the trial process, here’s an unhappy factoid:

Nine people directly linked to the process have been killed, including two defense lawyers in the past six weeks.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Saddam argues with judge as his trial resumes

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Sunday, November 27, 2005
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: 8 Nabbed in Alleged Plot Vs. Saddam Judge

Iraqi police arrested eight Sunni Arabs for allegedly plotting to kill the judge who prepared the indictment of Saddam Hussein, authorities said Sunday, the day before the ousted leader’s trial for crimes against humanity resumes.

[...]

The eight alleged plotters from
Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority were apprehended Saturday in the northern city of Kirkuk, police Col. Anwar Qadir said.

He said they were carrying written instructions from a former top Saddam deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, ordering them to kill investigating judge Raed Juhi, who prepared the case against Saddam and forwarded it to the trial court in July.

Al-Douri is the highest ranking member of the Saddam regime still at large and is believed to be at least the symbolic leader of Saddam loyalists fighting U.S. forces and Iraq’s new government.

Hmm. So much for him being dead, I guess.

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By Steven L. Taylor

I contributed to todays WILLisms.com: Pundit Roundtable at WILLisms.

This week’s topic: The Senate has recently voted on a non-binding resolution admonishing the White House to provide a clearer picture on the situation in Iraq, and for the prospects for pulling our troops out. Is the time right to begin reducing troop levels in Iraq? If not now, then when? What needs to happen there before the United States can pull out its military presence there?

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By Steven L. Taylor

A two-fer Sunday.

From today’s Birmingham News: Fence won’t fix illegal immigration

Fence won’t fix illegal immigration
Sunday, November 27, 2005
STEVEN L. TAYLOR

Not long ago, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions was one of three principle sponsors of the Border Security and Interior Enforcement Improvement Act of 2005, which seeks to fortify our borders. Among a number of orthodox proposals to fortify the U.S.-Mexican border was the idea of a security fence from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Such a fence would have to cover almost 2,000 miles and would cost $5 billion to $7 billion.

Clearly, the inspiration of this type of proposal is the security fences that have been constructed in Israel (as well as a nine-mile fence the United States already has constructed near San Diego). It is worth noting that the Israeli fence, which is concrete in portions but mainly chain link (two layers, combined with ditches, barbed wire and other such measures), was proposed to cross a total of 480 miles, according to Israeli government documents. It currently is about 365 miles long.

Not only is the Israeli fence a far smaller structure than would be required for the U.S.-Mexican border, it is constructed in an area with far more population density, making it easier to patrol the perimeter.

All of this calls into question whether it serves as an adequate model for the United States.

Of course, how effective would such a fence even be? There is no doubt a fence would slow illegals from crossing. However, building a wall is not, in and of itself, sufficient to achieve the goals being discussed. A barrier would still have to be patrolled, as there will be those who breach it in some fashion. It is worth recalling that there have already been examples of tunnels being dug under the border – a practice that would no doubt proliferate if a wall were constructed.

Concern over illegal immigration often ignores the economics of the situation. There are clear supply-and-demand forces at work that create a pull across the border. Millions of people clearly want work, and there are jobs beckoning them. The forces of a natural market are difficult to combat, as it requires striking directly at human nature.

These incentives are so strong that people are willing to die to cross into the United States to find jobs. They walk across the desert or come packed into trucks, and many do not make it. These are people who face death so they can work the night shift cleaning up the local McDonald’s. That should at least partially put into perspective the difficulties involved in controlling the border.

There also is ugly imagery associated with a wall. Don’t forget the wall constructed to separate east and west Berlin. The very possibility of a Mexican president some day standing at the Laredo Gate calling out “Mr. President, tear down this wall” should concern anyone with historical perspective.

Granted, the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in, and a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border would be designed to keep people out, but should the country that President Reagan described as a “shining city on a hill” be building walls to keep people out? What would the Statue of Liberty say?

The fact that the immigration laws of the United States are being broken en masse, not to mention drug smuggling and the possibility that terrorists could cross the border, is a worry. However, the fantasy that we can actually control the border ignores not only the vastness of the territory, but also the remarkable amount of legitimate traffic that crosses the border daily.

Laredo, Texas, alone has more than 9,000 daily crossings of vehicles, and it is impossible to adequately inspect every truck. Even if a fence substantially slowed border crossings on the frontier, there still would be opportunities to illegally enter the country.

If this appears to be a pessimistic viewpoint, so be it. Asserting total control of such a vast amount of territory against the forces that draw tens of thousands of people northward is probably impossible. As such, we have to ask ourselves if spending billions of dollars on a 2,000-mile fence is wise or desirable – especially since it is highly unlikely that a fence will do away with illegal immigration.

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