Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Securing the borders: Did anyone think this through?

So a gaggle of right-wing racists and faux libertarians want to build a wall on the border. They are going to “secure” the borders. Nice.

So what does securing the borders mean? Well, one taste of it is that the historic right of Americans to cross into Canada or Mexico without a passport is gone. To travel you have to a government document giving you permission to do so. You can see why I think the “libertarians” who support this measure are not really libertarians at all.

And they want to build a big wall on the Mexican border. Also nice. Real nice. (You do know I’m being sarcastic.)

Since the United States was founded (and before) the borders with Canada and Mexico were never “secure”. Never. So the communities developed often without regard of that imaginary line in the dirt.

Now the authoritarians want “secure borders” and that means problems. It doesn’t mean problems for would-be terrorists. After all the 9/11 criminals didn’t cross the border illegally. They came in with government permission. They had passports and the US government said to them: “Welcome to America. Want some flying lessons?”

No one came in through Canada or Mexico. They didn’t cross the borders but flew in and handed over their permission slips to the hall monitors at the airports. They were roaming around killing people because they passed government security and had state permission to be in the US. You would think the government would look at how they approve would-be terrorists to enter the US. Instead Americans are being forced to get passports to spend a few hours shopping in Mexico.

But with hundreds of years of open borders the problems of imposing a Berlin Wall of security around the country are immense and very costly. Now think of this Border Wall for a second. The estimated cost is $2.2 billion. Like most government boondoggles that is the estimated cost. The real cost no doubt will be significantly higher.

A 14-mile section of wall in the San Diego area has been in the works since 1996. That project spent $39 million to date and the government plans another $35 million for it. By my calculation that is about $5,286,000 per mile. This is in an area much more easily accessible than where the American “Berlin Wall” is being installed. Even if this new wall costs the same as the one in San Diego the final price will be closer to $4 billion. And the New York Times says the cost could reach $49 billion. I suspect the feds will still be building when I go to my grave and that ultimately it will be scrapped unfinished. It will only stand as a monument to the stupidity and waste of government and to the bigotry of the xenophobic Right.

Now that cost is for the wall itself. What isn’t counted is that the US government is going to purchase or confiscate by eminent domain miles of privately owned land abutting the border. Again the faux libertarians supporting the wall will tell you that they oppose eminent domain. Yet only a total moron would have to say this wall can be built without the use of eminent domain. No doubt some of these “new” libertarians will find a way to justify eminent domain the way they have justified their other non-libertarian policies.

How will the wall and the confiscated land be paid for? Taxes, of course. Yet one conservative Republican is telling everyone he has never voted for a tax increase. But he has voted to spend billions of dollars walling in America. In fact he has made the border hysteria a major focus of his campaign. He imposed billions of dollars in costs on the American people and wants to pretend it was done tax free. Sure I believe that.

The Tohono O’odham Indians are not happy with that border wall. And they are supposed to be somewhat sovereign on their own land. But they say the wall will prevent them from crossing onto their land in Mexico and prevent wildlife from crossing. But this tribe may have it easy compared to other Americans.

University of Texas vice president Antonio Zavaleta says the border fence is going to cause a problem for students. “Part of our university would be on the Mexican side of the fence.” He wants to know if students are going to need a passport to travel between classrooms. The New York Times reports:

In Brownsville, Dr. Zavaleta said, that path would cut off not only the International Technology, Education and Commerce campus of the University of Texas and Texas Southmost College, which is in a former shopping center about a mile from the main campus, but also its golf course and a national historic site, Fort Brown, where an upright cannon marks an opening skirmish of the Mexican War.

According to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram “officials with the Department of Homeland Security mentioned its condemnation authority ‘within the first 15 words’ spoken to landowners” in the Rio Grande Valley where this Orwellian agency is “eyeing numerous private tracts for the wall.” Rep. Henry Cuellar says the landowners were told: “Keep in mind we can take away your property through eminent domain.”

Of course the border nazis insist they want to work with the landowners and that the landowners are “partners” with them. (Sort of the way a woman is a partner to a rapist.) Border Patrol spokesman Xavier Rios says: “The amount of property that would be used for this is only the property that has been identified as essential for completion of the project.” Now doesn’t that clear it up? In other words they will only take as much land as they think they need. Doesn’t everyone feel better now?

The Star-Telegram reports that in Rio Grande Valley section a 90 mile long wall is planned “most of it on private land and that the landowners “have expressed fears that a wall will disrupt cattle and ranching operations, block access to the Rio Grande and -- unless they agree to the government’s financial terms -- spur nasty court battles over the condemnation of private property.”

Noel Benavides, had a border patrol official show up at his ranch and show him a map indicating the wall would come right through his property. But Benavides was told he couldn’t have a copy of it. Benavides says: “What really got me upset was the individual mentioned eminent domain. We can’t stop Homeland Security. It is the law right now that we have to have a fence in this area. But to come in and say we will take it anyway we can, we can exercise eminent domain, that really got me upset and it still does.”

The land was in Benavides’ wife’s family since 1763 and includes large sections of untouched wilderness. And the Rio Grande was a river his family as uniting two countries, not dividing them. As a boy he swam in the river. Now he wonders if he will even be able to use the water rights he has to the river. “How are we going to be able to pump water if a fence separates us from the river? What is going to happen to all those animals that drink water from the river?” Benavides wonders which Mexican president is going to say: “Mr. President, tear down this wall... like Reagan said.”

Hey boys and girls! Aren’t you glad that those private property loving, small government conservatives (Ron Paul included) pushed through this idea?

It also appears that entire sections of Laredo, Texas are built up right to the border with Neuvo Laredo in Mexico. That would means wide sections of private property, people’s homes and businesses, will have to be confiscated to build the wall. We now have conservatives, who whined about the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision on eminent domain, proposing a wall that is only going to be built through the confiscation of thousands and thousands of pieces of private property. But don’t expect them to mention that.

So far there are no plans to wall in the Canadian border. But Americans are going to need passports to cross into Canada shortly. But how, for instance, will that work in the town of Derby Line, Vermont? Derby Line and Stanstead, Canada share common streets.

Over a century ago the Haskell Library was built there. As Associated Press reported:
Step through the front door of the Haskell Library and you're in the United States. Walk across the carpeted floor to the circulation desk and you're in Canada. But if you sit down on the couch, you're back in the U.S.

The two towns, in different countries, share a common water system, sewer system and emergency crews in both towns help one another. Will people need passports to go to the local library?

The residents of Canusa Avenue in Beebe Plain, Vermont have a bigger problem. This new found desire to “secure the borders” is one that troubles them. The street is named as it is as because it combines Canada and the USA (CanUSA). The residents on the south side of the street live in the US while those on north side live in Canada. Under the new Bush rules residents will need a passport to cross the street. As one lifelong resident of the street put it, referring to the new regulations: “This is quite a rats’ nest, if you think about.”

Ah, but in DC they never think about it and the Decider has decided and logic and reason never plays a role in his decisions. And what would Republicans campaign on if they didn’t have “illegals” around to scare their voters. They’ve already pretty much played their hatred of gays to death. It’s really time to move to on to another group of people to attack and why not the Mexicans?

Photos: 1) The wall, or one version of it. 2). Haskell Library, part in Canada, part in the US. 3) Canusa Ave: north side is Canada, south side is US. Passports will be need to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbor?

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