Fence keeps immigrants next door

The U.S. House and Senate recently passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006 – an act that calls for the construction of a 700-mile, double-layered fence across sections of the Southern border.

In addition to this, a virtual fence of unmanned aerial drones, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar and cameras will become a permanent fixture of the border landscape by 2008.

“The first step is strengthening our borders,” said Brad Mascho, press secretary for Ohio’s fifth district U.S. representative Paul Gillmor, who voted for the bill.

Mascho espoused Gillmor’s five-point plan on immigration – strengthening the Southern border, enforcing current immigration laws, expanding the guest/migrant worker program, opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants and changing the focus on legal immigrants to bringing in skilled workers or “people that benefit American society.”

Gillmor is currently campaigning for re-election in November to retain his seat in the House.

According to The Washington Post, critics say House Republican leaders needed to pass the bill in an attempt to shore up their voting base.

“If you’re a Republican, you want to sound tough on immigration,” said David Jackson, assistant professor in the political science department at the University.

The bill’s timing – less than three weeks before recess for campaigning – certainly isn’t coincidental.

But simply sounding tough does little to bring about a pragmatic debate on the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already here.

“From a policy standpoint, we need to be more realistic,” Jackson said. “We’re not going to deport 12 million people. That breaks practical and probably moral boundaries.”

Another problem is public misperception on immigration.

Gillmor’s press secretary said roughly 1 million illegal immigrants have criminal records.

When asked how we knew of criminal records of undocumented aliens, he said, “these are estimates, part of a study,” but couldn’t say specifically to what study he was referring .

“Part of the problem is that we have some very serious stereotypes that have become fears,” said Rolando Andrade, associate professor of ethnic studies and a native of Aguascalientes, Mexico. “Fears that Mexicans will destroy the economy, that they are criminals, that they will take and not give back.”

“These fears are being manipulated by conservative politicians to get elected.”

Another part of the problem, according to Andrade, is the legal immigration process.

For Mexicans, the process is expensive and can take up to a year.

But the only American consulate to offer immigration visas is in Ciudad Ju’aacute;rez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The thousands of applicants who are denied find themselves literally next door to America.

Many having already trekked from all parts of Mexico to Ciudad Ju’aacute;rez, will choose to take those final steps any way they can.

“The question then is what do we do?” Jackson said. “Do we stop demonizing them? Do we recognize the reality?”