Hal Netkin is a registered
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Guest Opinion

Border fence not total fix but can be effective tool

Tucson, Arizona | December 10, 2007
Arizona Daily Star
Opinion by Hal Netkin

In 2006, a bill calling for a double-layer border fence 854 miles long to be completed by May 2008 was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. Only a fraction of the fence has been completed, and most of that is only single-layer fencing and vehicle barriers.

Opponents of the fence make every excuse not to build it. Chief among the arguments is that it won't work.

The comparison of the fence by many to the Berlin Wall is flawed. When you build a wall to keep people in, that's a prison. When you build a fence to keep people out, that's securing your sovereignty.
Many successful fences to keep intruders out have been built. Since 1989 in San Diego, the 14-mile border fence there has led to a decrease in crime

Israel's border fence has been extraordinarily successful in keeping out potential infiltrators.

Even Saudi Arabia, one of the most vocal critics of Israel's security fence in the West Bank, is quietly emulating the Israeli example by erecting a barrier along its porous border with Yemen.

The argument that border crossers will simply go where there is no fence is actually an argument for a fence across the entire length of both our northern and southern borders, although there are some areas where it is impractical to install a fence. But those areas of rough terrain are natural barriers that illegal immigrants would not easily cross and are more easily monitored by the Border Patrol with high-tech unmanned lookout posts.

So what's wrong with a virtual fence?

There is no such thing as a virtual fence. A physical fence impedes aliens from crossing. A virtual fence does not. What is referred to as a virtual fence is an invisible array of sensors and cameras along the border. When a sensor is triggered or motion is detected by a camera, a display appears at the Border Patrol station telling officers when and where people are crossing. But many existing physical fences also use similar detection technology.

Virtual-fence advocates assume that the problem on the border is that of detecting intruders. But the problem at the border is not the inability to electronically detect illegal border crossers: The problem is getting to them and arresting them once they are detected. That's where a physical fence comes in.

With a physical fence, a large group is easily detected just as with a virtual fence, but it takes time to climb a fence. Thus, the Border Patrol can get to the fence in time to intercept most crossers.

Some say that crossers will simply use a ladder and rope to go over a fence. But that's not easy with a double-layered fence. With a double fence, a crosser would have to climb up the ladder taking it with him to the top of the fence, drop it to the area between the layers, drop down with a rope, then repeat the process to climb the second layer.

For a large group to cross, a second ladder would have to be leaned against the second layer for others to use. A large group trying to climb two ladders in single file one at a time gives the Border Patrol plenty of time to intercept all or most crossers.

Those who insist that a fence alone won't fix the problem are absolutely right. But that doesn't mean that if you can't fix the entire problem all at once, you shouldn't fix any part of it to begin with.

Write to Hal Netkin at [email protected].