CROSSING THE LINE
By Sergio Muñoz
Sergio Muñoz is a Times editorial writer and a citizen of both Mexico and the United States.
AS A MEXICAN, I'm outraged that politicians in Washington believe it is necessary to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to keep my compatriots from coming here to work. But I'm also ashamed that Mexico is, in many ways, to blame for making the border fence possible.
Mexico's failure to understand the immigration debate in the U.S. has weakened its negotiating position. Mexican President Vicente Fox is not entirely at fault. Illegal immigration is a controversial issue in Mexico as well, and his political maneuvering room is limited. When he formally protested to the U.S. State Department about the House-passed legislation calling for a 700-mile border fence, some politicians still accused him of timidity and demanded that he had to stop its construction. During a recent presidential campaign speech, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the candidate of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, even accused him of lacking the moral stature to stand up to the U.S.
Although the migration of Mexicans to the United States has been a constant for more than a century, Mexico's politicians have failed to articulate a coherent and realistic national immigration policy because the country's political parties and institutions, its business sector, academics, media and public do not all agree that illegal immigration is a bad thing. Paradoxically, Mexico's budding democracy has made it harder to achieve such a consensus because its political parties have greater parity than when the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, enjoyed a political monopoly.
Still, the Fox administration has failed to adequately inform Americans about the myriad successes of its border cooperation with U.S. authorities. For instance, few know about the two countries' exchanges of intelligence and information to ensure that the busy, 2,000-mile-long border doesn't become a conduit for terrorists seeking to enter the U.S. Four and a half years after 9/11, no terrorist threat has been connected to a southern border crossing. That's an amazing achievement considering there are about 1 million legal crossings a year, and that every day more than 300,000 vehicles crisscross the 53 points of entry into the U.S., carrying about $650 million worth of merchandise.
(Similarly, few know that terrorists have been caught crossing the border, and people have been convicted of helping terrorists cross the border)
As an American, I want to believe that the Senate, when it takes up the immigration legislation next month, will not only strip the fence from the bill but also its other mean-spirited provisions. I'm panicked by the thought that I would be classified as an "alien smuggler" if caught driving a nanny or a gardener who, unbeknownst to me, was living here illegally. Another provision would make it possible to jail all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country by making their unlawful presence an "aggravated felony" rather than a civil violation. And a provision that would turn state and local police into immigration agents would only seed confusion in the nation's barrios.
("seed confusion"? What confusion? Confusion about whether they could stay illegally or not?)
How radical is this approach to illegal immigration? Well, the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, certainly no friends of Fox, have held up the House immigration bill as a prime example of how el imperialismo yanqui disrespects even its closest allies.
I know that extending the border fence, begun in the mid-1980s, from California to the tip of Texas won't fix this nation's broken immigration system. The unprecedented rise of illegal crossings in the late 1980s and the '90s has come despite greater border fortifications and a dramatic increase in the Border Patrol.
I also realize that Mexico must understand the new realities of the post-9/11 world and should take control of its side of the border. To do that, it must finish its economic reforms so that the economy can grow at sustained rates to generate enough good jobs to keep Mexicans at home. It also must change its laws and regulations, including perhaps the constitution, to require Mexicans who want to emigrate to obtain proper legal documentation before doing so. As it now reads, no law bars a Mexican from simply walking across a border.
(What does economic reforms mean? An end to government corruption? Do we have an eta on that?)
Not too long ago, most American ninth-graders knew by heart a Robert Frost poem that challenged the traditional idea that good fences make good neighbors.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
Humiliation doesn't foster cooperation and understanding between friends struggling with such a complex problem as immigration. The wall, if built, would unnecessarily humiliate Mexicans. It should humiliate Americans as well.
(Yes, we have been humiliated by our own government that has allowed 20+Million illegals to set up housekeeping ILLEGALLY in our country, and given them BILLIONS of our tax dollars, sometimes for things like being a heroin addict)
40 tunnels discovered since 9\11?
Feb. 21, 2006
Stop border tunnels
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN has teamed with colleague Sen. John Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, to sponsor new legislation that should be opposed by no one. The California Democrat and Kyl want to establish harsh criminal penalties for constructing or financing a tunnel across the nation's international borders.
Feinstein announced the initiative today in San Diego, which is the site of the most sophisticated border tunnel ever discovered by authorities.
Hard as it might be to believe, apparently there are no laws on the books making it illegal to build, use or finance such a tunnel. It clearly is time to change that.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been 40 tunnels across our borders discovered by authorities. All but one of those tunnels have been along the U.S. southern border and 21 of them were along the California-Mexico border.
Authorities say that the tunnels are often the handiwork of drug smugglers, but they also are used to smuggle humans into the country illegally.
But Feinstein points out that such border tunnels could just as easily be used to smuggle weapons and terrorists into the United States.
While in San Diego on Tuesday, Feinstein inspected the tunnel that was recently discovered by officials there. It was a half-mile long and stretched from an abandoned warehouse near the southern border all the way through to Tijuana, Mexico.
At its deepest point the tunnel was more than nine stories below ground, had ample ventilation, a groundwater drainage systems, cement flooring, lighting and a pulley system. At the time the tunnel was discovered, authorities seized more than 4,200 pounds of marijuana in the tunnel.
Feinstein's office noted that eight tunnels have been discovered in the San Diego area since the beginning of this year.
The crux of the legislation is to establish severe criminal penalties for those involved in such an enterprise.
"Our borders are our nation's first line of defense, and we have got to throw the book at the criminals who would build these tunnels," Feinstein said. "For years smugglers have tried to go around our border checkpoints. Now they are trying to go under them. This is a serious issue not just for San Diego and California, but the entire country."
According to Feinstein the legislation would: establish a 20-year prison term for constructing or financing a tunnel; impose up to 10 years in prison for anyone who negligently permits others to construct or use such a tunnel; punish anyone who uses such a tunnel to smuggle aliens, weapons, drugs or terrorists; forfeit the assets of anyone involved in the offense; and instruct the U.S. Sentencing Commission to amend sentencing guidelines to provide criminal penalties for persons convicted under the bill.
Feinstein and Kyl should be commended for pursuing this legislation. We just wonder what has taken so long. This legislation should be quickly passed by Congress and signed by the president.