Friday 24 January 2014

Border  fences  and  walls

Those of us old enough will remember the infamous Berlin wall that separated the people of East Berlin from the rest of the world.  the wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area that was later known as the "death strip" that contained anti-vehicle trenches, and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.       
It was on June 13, 1990, that the official dismantling of the Wall by the East German military began and then finally all of Germany was unified. North Korea’s fences and walls were built to keep North Koreans trapped in their own country.

This article isn’t about walls and fences that keep people inside specific areas but rather about walls and fences that keep people out of specific areas. 

United States and Mexico border fences and walls.

The Mexico–United States border is an international border running from Imperial Beach, California, and Tijuana, Baja California, in the west to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and Brownsville, Texas, in the east.

The Secure Fence Act in the United States was enacted in 2006. The law instructed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to secure about one-third of the 1,950-mile (3,145 kilometer) border between US and Mexico with 700 miles of double-layered fencing and additionally through cameras, motion sensors, and other types of barriers by the end of the year to stem illegal immigration. The fences would be approximately 20 feet in height.

However, tThe border fence is not one continuous structure and is actually a grouping of short physical walls that stop and start, secured in between range from $400,000 to $15.1 million per mile.

Its purpose is to stop drug smugglers from Mexico bringing illicit drugs into the U.S. and to prevent Mexicans, other foreigners and criminals from illegally entering the United States. These two illicit activities are of a great concern to Americans.

The amount of illicit drugs believed to enter the State of Arizona alone each year from Mexico is in the thousands of tons, according to U.S. officials. Arizona is an attractive target for drug smugglers, because it sits atop a geographic funnel in northwestern Mexico. With the Gulf of California to the west, the Sierra Madre Mountains to the east and a vast illicit drug production area to the south, the Mexican plains lying just south of Arizona are a natural staging area for traffickers bound for the United States.     

An estimated 14 million people in the U.S. live in families in which the head of household or the spouse is in the United States illegally. About 75% of undocumented immigrants arrive across the US southern border with Mexico, and hail from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia and other Central and South American countries. Approximately  50% of all illegals are Mexican-born people. It follows that Mexico is the largest source of these undocumented immigrants into the U.S.     

Millions of these people live in extreme poverty and children are compelled to work on the streets in order to help provide food for their families so I can understand why they want to enter the United States. And let’s face it. It would be highly unlikely that the U.S. authorities would permit them to enter the U.S. in any other way.

That well known phrase, “Give me your tired and your poor.” is an invitation that is directed to immigrants who enter the United States through the front door and not the back door in the wee hours of the night.         

However, I am sure that I don’t have to justify saying that this influx of illegal immigrants is a financial drain on the economy of those U.S. states in which these people live in. Even if an illegal immigrant pays income and sales tax, there is no evidence that they add to the economy.  One trip to the emergency medical room can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more for just one of them.  Since illegals are lower on the economic scale, they are more likely to sign up for welfare and other social programs. This can be a drain on state public services that were not designed to take care of people that travel to the U.S. from other countries.                                                    

The U.S. needed to take action to limit illegal immigration. It built a fence all along the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico and began rounding up people in the U.S. that entered it illegally. Naturally, it hasn’t stopped all illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. or prevented all forms of smuggling guns and drugs into the U.S. but the fence and walls separating the two countries have for some small degree been an effective means of curtailing such illegal activity.

However, what was built to fight illegal immigration has turned into a nightmare for many Americans living along the U.S.-Mexico border. The fence, which will cover less than half of the actual border, inexplicably cuts through the middle of some private properties, while leaving others untouched. Many question if it can actually keep people from sneaking into the United States at all. There have been tunnels built by drug smugglers that have been 60 feet deep under the fences and hundreds of feet in length. They were built in locations where no one actually lives. 

When my wife, our youngest daughter and I visited the City of Nogales on the Mexican side of the Arizona/Mexico border from the Arizona City of Nogales, we could help but notice the high dark brown metal wall that separated the two cities.  If it wasn’t for that wall, you couldn’t differentiate one side of Nogales from the other.                                                                    

The U.S. and Canada don’t have such a wall separating their two countries but the border in one instance goes right down the middle of town and in another instance, it actually goes right down the middle of a house. When anyone in that home wants to go to bed or even to go to the toilet, they have to cross the border in their hallway and enter the United States. Needless to say, they don’t need a Visa to do that.

However, if such a wall were to divide an Mexican home in Nogales, Mexico, and the bedroom and bathroom were on the American side, and that person had to use the toilet, he or she would have to walk a mile to the official crossing point, apply for an American Visa and walk another mile on the American side, and then enter the back door of their house in order to take a pee.   
It is unfortunate that an American Border Control officer or officers on the U.S. side of Nogales in October 2012 fired 7 bullets into the head, neck and back of a 16-year-old Mexican boy who was killed on the Mexican side of the border.  What is even just as unfortunate is that American authorities never discovered as to who the shooters was or were other that he or they were border patrol officers. It was later learned that the boy was merely heading towards a local store on the Mexican side of the fence to visit his brother who worked at the store.

I can however appreciate why the Americans feel that it is necessary to close their borders to Mexicans and/or others from other countries who choose to sneak into the U.S. to find work and live in the U.S. or smuggle drugs and/or guns into the United States. Building the fences and walls are costing the Americans billions of dollars but in my opinion, it is necessary. 

As we all know, both the American government and the U.S. Congress realized that there were a great many millions of illegal Latinos in the US and removing that many people would be far too expensive and would cause a great deal of problems for those who had children so a law was passed that permitted them to remain as landed immigrants who would later be eligible to become citizens of the United States.

But that kind move is not an invitation for others to slip into the United States illegally—hence the fence and the walls at the U.S./Mexican border were built, Of course Mexicans and people from other nations can always apply for entry into the U.S. through proper channels.

Fences and walls in many countries

There are at least 23 other countries that have fences and walls separating them from their neighbouring countries. Of course, these individual fences and walls are in no way as long as the Great Wall of China that is 21,196 kilometers (13,171 miles) in length. Comparing that distance in the United States, it would begin in New York City and end up in Oklahoma City.

Are all these walls and fences justified? For the most part, I believe that they are. Every country in the world has the right to protect itself from drug and gun smugglers, terrorists and the influx of illegal aliens attempting to move into their countries. 

Do walls and fences serve their purposes?

Obviously, not all walls and fences can stop everyone from tunneling under them or flying over them or even climbing over them. However it is conceivable that a great many people are deterred from trying to get into countries that have built the walls and fences to keep aliens, drug and arms smugglers and terrorists out. Despite that, many aliens, smugglers and terrorists are obviously ignoring the wall and fences and choosing a much simpler way to smuggle drugs and guns into the United States. Ninety percent of illicit drugs enter the United States through ports of entry. Terrorists generally fly in. Both the seaports and airports are where the attention should be directed. I don’t know how many people fleeing their own countries for safety or simply to live a better life elsewhere actually cross the borders which have fences and walls but I imagine the numbers are quite high.


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