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Monday, May 02, 2005 | I recently received an e-mail from an old Navy buddy in Tucson. He was concerned about an article my friend Dipsey Dumpster wrote about the four congressmen who held a press conference at the border. These guys showed up to celebrate a resolution they’d pushed through Congress. The resolution urged that Homeland Security be allowed to waive all laws, including federal and state environmental protections in order to finish a 14-mile stretch of fence along the border.
The fence would require nearby hills to be cut down in order to fill an environmentally sensitive place called Smuggler’s Gulch. Then the erstwhile gulch would become a huge slab of concrete complete with bright lights, all to deter folks from illegally crossing the border. I’m afraid my friend Dipsey made fun of the press conference, not that the four congressmen weren’t funny enough in their own right.
“But what about the border?” my Arizona friend asked. “Don’t you think control of it is essential to our security?”
I’ll have to answer for Dipsey. He is in a petulant mood today. He gets that way whenever his radio gets stuck on 600 AM. I think I can do justice to his ideas because we think so much alike.
I do indeed think it’s important that we protect our borders. I also think we should cure the common cold, but in our effort to do so we ought not kill the patient, not even if his sneezing annoys us. Some “cures” are worse than the disease.
Our border with Mexico runs 1,275 miles, separating two nations that are officially friends, but not always warm friends. Take the war that took place from 1846 to 1848. Our neighbors to the south lost much of their territory during that war. Losing a huge hunk of property seldom engenders a warm friendship with the folks who took the property.
Talk show hosts on this side point to a plethora of sins caused by the folks south of the border – the illegal immigrants for example. The immediate result of a sealed border would be to deter them from coming across. Although everybody seems to resent their being here, they are greeted with open arms by employers who want to save money on labor costs.
We get cheap labor. The cost of producing food is reduced. The Mexican and Central American workers get more money than they can make at home. It looks like a win-win situation.
In the 1980s, an economics professor at the University of Illinois and Julian L. Simon often wrote favorably on immigration, including illegal immigration. He is the author of “How Do Immigrants Affect Us Economically.”
Simon’s contention was that the most immigrants, including illegal ones, contributed much more to our economy than they took out. Similar studies tend to support Simon’s contentions.
But the law is the law and what are we going to do about it? I suppose we can erect a wall 500 feet high, line it with machine guns and searchlights and we will achieve the dubious feat of controlling our borders. But at what cost?
Lost in this entire argument is some understanding of what our country is supposed to be all about. The freedom we laud so highly is fragile. We can lose it. We can even destroy it. If we allow the administration, through a cabinet post, to override the court system, we will be pulling a key card out of a house of cards.
Soon, there will be little reason to worry about our freedom being destroyed by evil people. We will have done it ourselves.
Keith Taylor is a freelance writer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at