Immigration: Good fences make good neighbors, and the Senate's decision to move ahead on a border fence makes sense for all sides. But Mexico's government is kicking up a fuss. It needs to look a lot closer.
The Senate's expected passage of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, following the House's vote to build a $1.2 billion 700-mile border fence, is good news for all sides. But right off, Mexico's government is warning of disaster for U.S.-Mexico relations if the bill is passed and the fence is built.
"Such a thing, unfortunately, is a deterioration in the relationship," said Mexican Foreign Secretary Ernesto Derbez. "Shameful," added President Vicente Fox, calling it a new Berlin Wall.
They couldn't be more wrong.
Mexico is no enemy, but it wouldn't be looking at a fence if it didn't show so little regard for lawful boundaries in the first place.
It has failed so badly at it that one wonders what Mexico's idea of good relations with the U.S. is, given that no nation on Earth will tolerate an unchecked flood of people into its boundaries.
In the long run, this fence won't mean bad relations with Mexico, but more sovereignty to both sides. The current situation on the border, where criminals operate unchecked, is exactly the opposite of that. And a million illegal aliens crossing into the U.S. from Mexico each year creates big social problems for both countries.
Rule of law on all sides is undermined with the growth of underworld smuggling rackets on the borderlands. Meanwhile, U.S. cities are flooded with illegals who impose. On the Mexican side, children grow up with absentee parents, as parents head north.
But instead of recognizing this trouble derived from the porous border, Mexican officials have actually encouraged it, to the extent that it's grown to at least 6 million Mexican illegals in the U.S.
Fox hailed the Mexican gate-crashers as heroes, and Mexican officials toasted their $20 billion in remittances sent back to Mexico. They even printed out government guides for would-be illegal crossers into the U.S., encouraging more illegal immigration.
But the long-running official wink and nod for illegal immigration has turned into a problem for Mexico too. Vicious human-smuggling networks have grown, and a war between them is escalating, mainly on the Mexico side. It's precisely because there are still holes in the border to fight over.
Ending access to those routes will raise the costs of drug smuggling and discourage illegal immigration. It will also make drug traffickers and people smugglers easier for Mexican law enforcement to corner, as they literally won't be able to flee across borders.
Given the benefits, why Mexican officials like Fox and Derbez would prefer a badly policed, porous border over an efficient, impenetrable fence is beyond us.
In short, fences work. The Great Wall of China kept barbarians out for hundreds of years, failing only at intervals when the Chinese military was neglected. UPI reports that Israel's West Bank fence ended the second intifada and saved 1,100 lives.
Instead of complaining about a fence that may well give Mexico as well as the U.S. more sovereign control, Mexican officials ought to start thinking about how the sovereignty they so fiercely claim to defend might just benefit from it.