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America's Berlin Wall?

The U.S. - Mexico fence proposal gains ground
 
 
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Look's like Rep. Hunter's crazy idea to build a fence along the U.S. - Mexico border has some copycat fans. Two similar proposals are getting press and increasingly becoming part of the mainstream discussion on how to curb illegal immigration.

A conservative "traditional values" group called Let Freedom Ring recently began a press circuit to promote its "We Need a Fence" campaign, which proposes the construction of an $8 billion fence along the 2,000-mile border. Carl Hanna, the founder "We Need a Fence," appeared on "The Situation with Tucker Carlson" Nov. 21st to describe the Berlin-wall style fence:

CARLSON: Would it work?

HANNA: Well, I think that it would work. The fence that we are proposing is a little bit different than any fence that`s proposed right now. You know, Congressman Duncan Hunter from the San Diego area of California has recently proposed a two-element fence with a patrol road between them.

We have proposed a six-element fence that is modeled after the Israeli fences on the West Bank and in Gaza that consist of a barbed wire element, a ditch, a tall and sturdy steel fence that is heavier duty than a chain link fence but not a solid fence, followed by a patrol road. And then the same elements in the other direction, fence, ditch and barbed wire, comprising about 50 yards in total width.

That means that it can`t be easily compromised. You can`t take a ladder down to the border and simply climb other it. You can`t go to your local hardware store and bolt cutters or wire cutters and cut through it, and you can`t easily tunnel under it.

And we also recommend that it be accompanied by detection devices that will detect motion, as well as any attempted intrusion through tunneling underneath and so on.

Hanna is supposed to appear tonight on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" show to continue promoting the fence.

Already, "We Need A Fence" has been airing scare-tactic commercials on Fox News and CNN that make the fence a national security issue. After noting that 47 immigrants from "countries that sponsor terrorism" slipped through the U.S. - Mexico border in 2004, a close up of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center ends the commercial while the voice-over notes that our loose border leaves the U.S. "vulnerable to another terrorist attack."

The main thrust of this campaign -- that this is a national security issue -- is hard to swallow and frankly offensive. Don't we remember that all the hijackers in 9/11 were here legally as visitors or students? A fence, no matter how big or high-tech, would not have made a speck of difference. I know politicians and hard-core conservatives rely on black-and-white worldviews -- you're either with us or against us, in Bush's infamously simplistic words -- but putting up a wall seems like a fourth-grader's solution to issues of complex national public policy. (I apologize to fourth-graders everywhere for comparing them to these nuts.)

Unfortunately, however, this high-security fence idea keeps gathering support from more and more old white men, who couch their xenophobic, anti-immigrant language in terms of national security. Earlier this week, Senators Ben Nelson, Jeff Sessions and Tom Coburn introduced the Border Security and Interior Enforcement Improvement Act of 2005, which similarly proposes a fence along border.

Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.