Department of the Fence

Building walls and fences to keep out Mexicans and Canadians

While Bush wants to widen the flow of migrant workers into the U.S. and business looks forward to ripping down the trade barriers separating Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, Congress is moving ahead with a plan to give the Department of Homeland Security carte blanche to build Israeli-type barriers shutting off the 1,987-mile border from California to Texas between the U.S. and Mexico, and even to string fencing for 3,950 miles along the Canadian border between Bellingham, Washington, and South Lubec, Maine.

As part of a pending immigration bill, the House recently tacked on language that says the secretary of homeland security "shall waive all laws" that he "determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads" needed to stop illegal border crossings. "If the language becomes law," writes Congressional Quarterly, "the department's secretary could brush aside federal environmental and labor regulations, state property rights, protections, and even local zoning ordinances in order to speed construction of whatever barriers he likes. And the legislation would specifically bar lawsuits that could stop him."

If it passes, the provision will make it possible for the department to complete a 14-mile stretch of barrier between San Diego and Tijuana. This wall has been blocked because of an environmental dispute over marshlands. And it might well revive interest in the all but abandoned scheme to build a 270-mile-long barrier on the Arizona border.

 
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