What happened to the “danged fence”?

image_thumb.pngYou won’t find me getting terribly agitated about immigration reform either way – I think it’s the right thing to do, but I don’t see it as much of an opportunity to gain Hispanic-vote share, and I suspect the economists’ forecasted golden eggs will turn up some rotten ones, too.  But even though I’m a firmly right-of-center Republican, I’m an easy sell as you’re likely to find on immigration.  Just sell me like I know you know how:  Security first, then regularization.  Predictable stuff.  I won’t even wince at amnesty, if you insist.

But give me a fence first.  It’s got to be a fence.  And it’s got to come first.

A fence has a distinct metaphysical advantage over all other proposals on offer:  A fence simply is.  It can’t be turned off or defunded, and it doesn’t change its enforcement policy with each new administration.  And as the GOP has learned through prior humiliations, if the fence isn’t built first, it isn’t built ever.

Again, easy stuff.

And yet GOP leaders have shrinked away from the fence.  Worse, they are doing so quietly, without letting their constituents know they’re not interested in building a fence.  Here’s a portion of an interview of Congressman Lou Barletta on Hugh Hewitt’s show last week, after repeatedly refusing to commit to building a fence and instead offering platitudes like “operational control,” “occupational control,” and “at the heart of border security is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (well, not really that last one):

HH: The reason people are screaming, Congressman, the reason people are screaming is when Congresspeople get asked specific questions about the fence, they don’t answer them. They don’t say you betcha, I’m not voting for a bill that doesn’t have a fence in it.

LB: I’m looking for a bill that will secure America’s borders, and that’s airports, seaports, and land entries. I’m not just focusing on one area and saying that’s good enough for me. Hugh, I understand that people can come into this country illegally from the south, from the north, and from airports and seaports. And whatever we have to do, I’m supporting. I’m one of the first people that said listen, unless we secure our borders, all borders, including airports and seaports, I’m not voting for anything else.

HH: But Congressman, when people hear you say that, I honestly don’t know that Republicans get that. They don’t hear anything you say. They hear you not saying fence. They don’t believe Republicans who say border security, operational control, seaports, visas, because it’s all viewed as an extended way of avoiding saying I will vote for a fence, we will get it built. For whatever reason, Republicans will not say what their supporters want them to say, which is we will build the fence.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul fared little better today.

I can’t figure it out. Don’t want to build the fence?  Ok, then say so. But all the Orwellian talk about metrics design and occupational control and stakeholders – Hewitt is right: all people hear is a legislator not saying “fence.”  Legislators who used to not only talk about building a fence, but building a “danged fence.”

It’s just a little weird, is all.

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16 thoughts on “What happened to the “danged fence”?

  1. A fence that’s not guarded is going to stop stopping anyone from traversing it quite quickly. So in that sense, yes, an effective fence’s funding can be cut.

    Moreover, you can also guard a line. Yes, building a fence on top of it and then abandoning it will stop a few more people than just abandoning the line. But, again, over time, not very many more.

    So I’m left wondering if your insistence on a fence isn’t based in a concern that is in fact pretty much exactly as you describe it when you point out its metaphysical advantages: namely, symbolism.

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  2. I’m not sure what’s the big deal about a fence. There is a fence on the border between Malaysia and Singapore. Of course there is also a waterway… but I’m as pro immigration as they come but a fence seems harmless.

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  3. Personally, I’d be against a fence. Heck, I’d even oppose one on your norther border. That’s right, I’d allow all you illegal yanks to slip into God’s country!

    Regardless, I can understand the frustration of pro-fence people. The inability to get a straight answer out of a pol isn’t exclusive to the immigration debate, but the physical presence of the fence (if one were built) makes the lack of a concrete answer a little more glaring.

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  4. I swear, when it comes to that danged fence Republican rank and filers don’t see that they’re like Charlie Brown and that danged football. Like Lucy the Republican pols dangle that danged fence out there and lure the rank and file to swat at Democrats’ supposed opposition to it, then once the rank and file have dutifully swatted at it and given the Republicans their vote, they yank the fence back again to dangle out there during the *next* election cycle. It’s a cynical electoral ploy and the Republican rank and file, like Charlie Brown, fall for it every frickin’ time. Sheesh.

    Get it clear in your silly little heads, Republicans: Your Republican pols don’t want to finish that danged fence *because then they couldn’t dangle it out there as an issue to get your votes*. Duh!

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    • Sounds familiar; could be something to it.

      Lessig is reluctant to dole out blame for legislators’ perverse motives. Yielding to special interests “isn’t selling out,” he reasons. “It is surviving.” Congress passes laws with “sunset” provisions and “tax extenders” in order to drum up donations from laws’ supporters when expiration draws near. “For every time a ‘targeted tax benefit’ is about to expire,” Lessig explains, “those who receive this benefit have an extraordinarily strong incentive to fight to keep it.” Lessig notes that in the 1990s, there were fewer than a dozen tax extenders in the U.S. tax code. Now there are more than 140. Because the average legislator cannot stand up to special interests and still draw enough contributions for the next reelection campaign, Lessig contends, can we really blame them for playing along?

      https://ordinary-times.com/timkowal/2011/12/under-siege-how-government-centralization-and-expansion-puts-democracy-in-the-service-of-special-interests/

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    • That you’re entitled to your opinion but it’s a fringe minority. the opinion itself seems unsupportable to me, with the important exception that it is to some extent a product of pols’ broken promises.

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      • And if that didn’t work, you could tell them the economic fallout from the maximal deportation they seem to want, pointing out that sending back everyone would be like deporting the entire state of Ohio (last time I checked, undoc population was around same as the state pop).

        Not that I’m claiming to know how to talk to them on that, just a thought. My personal position is that restricting the movement of people via immigration laws & “border security” are inherently violations to individual liberty & tend in practice towards prejudice — so they’d never listen to me.

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        • Again, those overstaying their visas are conventionally enumerated at 300,000 per annum, of which about a third return voluntarily (can I say self-deport?). Arrest around 200,000 people a year, record their biometrics, clap them in jail for 11 weeks, and deport them, and contain the problem in its dimensions. Processing caseloads of this dimension is accomplished by some of our larger urban forces and municipal court systems, so it is not as if it is beyond the capacity of the federal government to implement (with good administrative leadership).

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          • So you keep bringing up this idea that, e.g., NYC pd + courts incarcerate and dispose of cases at about the right rate–but that’s in a very limited space. Spread it out nationwide and the resource requirements almost certainly increase superlinearly with the area–like almost the square of the relative area. Not so affordable.

            At least literal border enforcement is just linear in scale.

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            • Come again? There would be some additional transportation costs from points of arrest to federal detention centers to federal courthouses. Most people live within 70 miles of a federal courthouse. The man-hours devoted to ferrying them around cannot be that all-consuming.

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