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On Border Walls and Sentient Nonhumans

I’m filing this under Gray Matters (among other things) because, embarrassingly, I don’t think I know enough to say I know exactly what I believe.


Lou Dobbs is really angry about it–that much I do know.

There are 50-something and 60-something white people picketing about a mile away from here at a El Sol, where you can safely, legally find day laborers (read: immigrants) to take to your house to do odd jobs. The white people want you to honk if you don’t want the evil nonwhite people to take their jobs.

None of those white people would toil in my yard, resod my lawn, mow my lawn, or trim my now 9-feet tall hedges, though. That much I also know (and please note I do those things myself). The people sitting on their folding chairs, who drove to El Sol in their SUVs and are screaming hatefully, don’t want the jobs the men and women who rode there on old bicycles are willing to do. I could be wrong, but I don’t see any of them on their knees cleaning the grout on my kitchen floor. Again, I’m not as educated as I should be on this.

Something tells me it’s not right to call your country free–but
then have all kinds of fine print with all kinds of exceptions, like
you can come here from Cuba but not from Haiti. Now, I’ve never been to
Cuba but I’ve been to Haiti with a humanitarian group and I’ve never,
ever, in all my travels seen a place more in need of . . . everything.
They must import everything. And if someone is willing to risk his life to get here, I find it unconscionable that we’re so quick to send him back.

One thing I think I believe for certain is that the idea of a border wall is not good. Ron sent a link to a Sierra Club site about the wall
and its affects on wildlife and ecosystems. Not surprisingly, there’s a
political angle involving Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security
Secretary, allowing walls to be constructed despite laws that would
require otherwise (over at NoTexasBorderWall). DemarcatedLandscapes also deals with the issue.

We here in the Sunshine State have natural walls in the form of water all around us, so it’s easy not to think about the problems a man-made wall would create. But now that I’m thinking about it, I see far more downside to it than upside (I can’t find much of that at all, but again, I’m no expert).

After my recent tutorial, I can confidently say, "Mr. Chertoff, tear down that wall."

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lyda #

    Mary, the wall is very bad for wildlife. Nobody else is bringing this up in the news.

    But I will say that it is something of a myth that only immigrants will work hard at unskilled labor. Where I live the day labor sites have a good number of African Americans lined up and sometimes white men. I think anyone who has lost their construction job will try it until they find better work.

    But women don't feel safe and sadly they are not safe. One woman who was selling flowers on the street was grabbed and pulled into a car and never seen again. This is why if women want jobs cleaning they will usually sign up with a service that tracks where they are sent and sends them in pairs or groups. But then people have to pay for the service which costs more. Women who clean on their own and do it cheaply often only take word of mouth referrals and will not line up on the street corner.

    However, I think some people don't want to pay fair wages so they are more likely to hire immigrants. In the paper here there was an article about how sometimes people will pick them up, make them work all day, then refuse to pay and threaten to call INS. It is easier to exploit and cheat people who are not here legally.

    September 22, 2008
  2. Nick #

    Immigration can be solved by pulling out of NAFTA. By dumping our cheap products (especially corn) on Mexico, we force the farmers off the land and into the cities to find work. They can't compete with our subsidized GMO's. We've essentially ruined their economy, so they have to head north to support their families. It's just one example of the so-called "free market" advancing to create "prosperity" (for American corporate executives, at least). Now the US is having to pay the price.

    September 22, 2008
  3. Bea Elliott #

    Mary, you and I are in a different "Florida". I live in "Poor"county – I mean "Polk" county. There are droves of *white* people here who would gladly do the menial tasks you mentioned. A friend is with Polk County Works and helps people find jobs. She says more than half are (senior) white folks looking for *any* employment. Hispanic and Latinos are rarely involved in her programs because they have no problem finding jobs.

    I have a *white* husband/wife team that help me in the yard for low wages – It's all I feel the work is worth and it seems to be "enough" for them… I'm *white* and in my life I've done some incredibly brutal physical work for very low pay… so has my husband… but we too, at the time – thought it was "enough".

    Illegal immigration forced wages to stay low… Instead of hiring people at a reasonable wage – illegals as you say, will work for nearly anything. Rich employers of course seizes on this and hire "slave labor" as illustrated with the recent bust at Agriprocessor. It's a problem that should have been dealt with decades ago. And at this point a wall or fence isn't going to fix anything – and will only exacerbate the conditions for wild life.

    I agree… tear down the wall!

    September 22, 2008
  4. Bea Elliott #

    Hi Lyda… "In the paper here there was an article about how sometimes people will pick them up, make them work all day, then refuse to pay and threaten to call INS." OMG that is awful! I just don't know what to do about vicious people like that. Perhaps they are the ones that should be "deported"!

    Nick… I want out of NAFTA too. It's a terrible mistake resulting in unprecedented exploitation of human and non-humans.

    September 22, 2008
  5. Thanks for linking to DL. Immigration is tricky, but the effects of the infrastrusture are a no-brainer. The wall isn't working to keep out people, but it is blocking wildlife, causing erosion and flooding, and is generally all the awful things that enviros predicted. It's a symbol, but a symbol that is causing profound collateral damage.

    September 22, 2008
  6. I just went running and couldn't run home fast enough because I was wondering if the scene I described, which is in MY neighborhood, came off sounding either racist somehow or that I was generalizing or making assumptions. The above scene can be anywhere and have any combination of races, ages and ethnicities. It just so happens that my town has a distinct polarization along certain lines. It's sort of cartoonish (i.e., beats you over the head) with its stereotypes.

    September 22, 2008
  7. When I was a teen I spent a week with a Catholic group building homes in Tijuana. It was like Habitat for Humanity, only the homes were purely shelter, no bathroom or kitchen, no running water, electricity, or gas. (Even though my family and I were atheist, we did these kinds of charity vacations, often with theists.) Part of our trip involved a tour of the border. I have the memory etched in my mind now. After seeing that, I will NEVER support border fences. They are wrong.

    September 22, 2008
  8. Ron Kearns #

    Few people are more adamantly opposed to Illegal immigration than I am. I support firm punishment for illegal immigrants who break our rules, regulations, and laws. Additionally, I support the death penalty for illegal drug runners who use firearms against our border agents.

    However, the border wall is *not* the answer. As others mentioned, NAFTA was the impetus for this illegal exodus from Mexico et al. and a repeal by the next Administration and Congress must occur to stem the tide of human miseries our defunct immigration *policies* have caused.

    Of extreme importance and concern is the practice of allowing a Bush appointee to build the wall by singlehandedly waiving 36 longstanding federal laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Wilderness Act, NEPA, Endangered Species Act, and many more hard-fought victories for human, environmental, and wildlife rights. From:

    Here is the complete list of laws that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff waived using his Real ID Act authority on April 1, 2008:

    National Environmental Policy Act
    Endangered Species Act
    Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act)
    National Historic Preservation Act
    Migratory Bird Treaty Act
    Clean Air Act
    Archeological Resources Protection Act
    Safe Drinking Water Act
    Noise Control Act
    Solid Waste Disposal Act
    Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
    Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
    Antiquities Act
    Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
    Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
    Farmland Protection Policy Act
    Coastal Zone Management Act
    Wilderness Act
    Federal Land Policy and Management Act
    National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
    Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
    Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
    Administrative Procedure Act
    Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999
    Sections 102(29) and 103 of Title I of the California Desert Protection Act
    National Park Service Organic Act
    National Park Service General Authorities Act
    Sections 401(7), 403, and 404 of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978
    Sections 301(a)-(f) of the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act
    Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
    Eagle Protection Act
    Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
    American Indian Religious Freedom Act
    Religious Freedom Restoration Act
    National Forest Management Act of 1976
    Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960

    Dr. Martin, thank you for considering this topic within your informative and erudite blog.

    Ron Kearns

    September 22, 2008
  9. Ron Kearns #

    Some good news from yesterday regarding the border wall (fence)

    Brownsville Herald
    September 21, 2008

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has run out of money to build remaining segments of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in the Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere, and the project already is $400 million over budget.
    But to secure an additional $140 million, DHS will need the approval of U.S. Rep. David Price, D-NC, chairman of the Sub-Committee on Homeland Security.

    Without Price's approval, the border fence likely will remain unfinished at the end of 2008.
    Currently, 341 miles of a proposed 670 miles of new fencing are in place along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.


    September 22, 2008
  10. Ron #

    A day later the bad news:

    Monday, September 22, 2008
    Congress approves additional border fence funding

    The Monitor
    September 22, 2008

    By Kevin Sieff

    Members of Congress will not stand in the way of the border fence's construction, despite the project's rising costs.


    At least there *might* be some accountability for the large cost overruns.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008
    Price wants Inspector General to audit DHS's border fence contracts

    Rio Grande Guardian
    September 23, 2008

    For those who want to follow the border wall news, this is the best source:


    September 23, 2008

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