DALLAS — All over Texas, people are incredulous about the Republican election ploy to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border — from Columbus, N.M., to El Paso, Texas.
President George W. Bush signed a bill Oct. 26 authorizing construction of the fence.
That same day, Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) said in a press statement, “The issue of immigration and border security cannot simply be resolved by building a fence. We need comprehensive legislation that will reform our immigration laws and bring sustainable security to our borders and not unfunded legislation that plays on people’s fears, and trepidations and delivers a phony sense of security.
“The American people should know that the bill to construct the 700 mile border fence is unfunded,” she continued. “At present, the GOP has authorized a construction project that is estimated to cost the American people from $2.1 billion to $7 billion dollars without indicating a source of funding.”
Juan Gomez, an immigrant rights activist and vice president of Voices for Immigrants said, “It’s just a political election decision, because Bush and company are going down. They believe that people are putting a priority on security. They are only considering the politics.”
Gomez said Texas alone has a 1,500-mile border with Mexico and with California, Arizona, and New Mexico’s borders, a 700-mile fence isn’t even a serious project. “I don’t think they will actually build it,” he said.
But, Gomez asks with tongue-in-cheek, if they do build it, what construction workers would they hire? “The big construction jobs in the United States, especially in the border states, use cheap immigrant labor.”
“If they are going to try to stop immigrants with a construction project, they are living in a world of fantasy!” he said.
In Mexico, politicians, religious leaders and others reacted with swift criticism. Building a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border is a shortsighted move that may hurt the U.S. economy and shows a serious lack of respect for the dignity of Mexican workers, said Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan.
Cardinal Lozano said the bill’s passage and signing were a sign of a “lack of intelligence” in U.S. efforts to find solutions to its border problems as well as a lack of political courage to take a moral stand just before the November elections.
He said the fence is unlikely to stop illegal entry into the United States, but is likely to lead people “to try to cross the border in increasingly risky ways or by putting themselves into the hands of unscrupulous traffickers.”
In New Mexico, the Albuquerque Tribune editorialized that the wall would turn out to be “a big, empty political show” by posturing Republicans. They said the fence — if it were ever built — would be “doomed to fail as a porous, incomplete and ineffective security measure.”
Calling it an almost certain “boondoggle,” the editorial warned, “Maintenance costs alone would be astronomical, and sooner or later the United States would have to abandon the fence.”
“History has shown that border fences and walls, from the Berlin Wall to the Great Wall of China, have done little to improve relations or security between nations,” the editorial continued. “That is best done not by building walls but by building trust and respect through diplomacy, economic development and common labor, environmental and social agreements.”
Jim Lane contributed to this story.