Thu, Feb 24, 2011 - Page 9 News List

The battle of the US-Mexico frontier

The US has built a fence to keep Mexican immigrants out. It has cost billions and split communities. But does it work?

By Chris McGreal  /  The Guardian, LONDON

Last year, the bodies of more than 400 suspected illegal immigrants were found in the desert, mostly in Arizona. Brewer misused the rising number of such deaths to justify her popular, but constitutionally questionable, law requiring the police to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant. She claimed that some of the corpses were headless, murder victims of drug cartels. However, when the police said no headless corpses had been found, Brewer declined to discuss her evidence and ran away from reporters pressing the question.

Foster says Americans look to the fence because they lack the will to do what really has to be done to curb the flow of drugs — reduce the market and end the sale of weapons to the Mexican cartels.

“We’re funding and arming the narcotraficantes, and then we blame the Mexicans,” he says. “Billions of dollars Americans have spent on drugs go back to Mexico. Ninety percent of the guns the narcos use come from the US. And our government does almost nothing about it.”

US President Barack Obama’s administration appears to be recognizing the futility of the barrier. Already it is backing away from the “virtual fence” after the US government has spent close to US$1 billion on the 85km network. An investigation by the US Government Accountability Office found that the electronic sensors could not tell the difference between people and small animals or large vehicles. The radar wasn’t much better. It would have cost at least another US$8 billion to fill in the rest of the gaps.

However, now the US is left with a fence and wall full of holes. Bruce smiles at the absurdity of it all, and what he sees as the hypocrisy of his fellow Americans who vilify illegal immigrants and then hire them to clean their houses, tend their gardens and build their swimming pools. Americans such as Meg Whitman, the billionaire Republican contender to be governor of California who supports the border fence and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, and who was exposed as employing a housekeeper working illegally in the US for nearly a decade.

“A lot of these guys from Mexico, you’ve heard about them being lazy. They’re definitely not lazy people. They’re hard-working folks. I wonder in San Antonio and Dallas and Fort Worth and Austin how they’d ever build a goddamn house without Mexicans. They built this house here. I don’t know where I would be without them Mexicans helping me,” Bruce says.

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