Even if we build it, they’ll still come

Greg Bean

As communities in central New Jersey like Freehold Borough and Lakewood struggle with the thorny problems arising from illegal immigration, about the only solace we can take is that the federal government is doing an even worse job of finding a solution than we are.

Last week the U.S. Senate, which had been deadlocked over a comprehensive immigration reform bill for months, threw up its hands in defeat and decided that – as early as this week – it will vote on whether to go along with the solution endorsed by the House of Representatives and build a 700-mile-long fence along sections of the border with Mexico.

As proposed, the 15-foot-high fence would cost more than $7 billion, would strain relations between the United States and Mexico, would be a logistical nightmare to build, would require an additional 10,000 border guards to patrol, and – according to leaders in both the House and Senate – would not stop, or even seriously staunch, the flow of illegal immigrants across the border.

For one thing, there would be huge gaps in the fence where illegal immigrants could cross the border virtually unhindered. The Tohono O’odham Indian tribe, for example, has a large reservation along the border between Arizona and Mexico, and has said it will not allow the fence to be built on its land because of environmental and cultural concerns. That alone would leave a 75-mile-wide gap in the fence at one of the border’s most vulnerable points, and although the government – as the trustee of all Indian lands – could simply build the fence over the tribe’s objections, no one seriously believes that will happen.

In addition to gaps like the one on the Tohono O’odham reservation, the border between the United States and Mexico is about 2,500 miles long, and a 700-mile-long fence would leave about 1,800 miles of border open. As one particularly astute senator asked when assured that the fence would be difficult to climb over, “Couldn’t people just go around it?”

Well yes, they could, but that’s not the point. The point is that this fence was never intended as a serious solution to the problem of illegal immigration, it was just intended to divert our attention from the fact that our government is virtually bankrupt when it comes to coming up with serious solutions.

“How can you suggest the government isn’t doing anything to control illegal immigration?” they’ll ask. “We’re building the world’s longest fence!”

Shame on us if we let them get away with it.

As a matter of fact, if they insist on going forward with this hideously expensive boondoggle, I think we ought to think about changing the intended purpose of the fence – just a smidge.

Currently, the House and Senate are proposing a hugely expensive fence to keep people out, namely illegal immigrants coming over the border from Mexico.

But good fences can also keep people in, and maybe we could save some money by building that 15-foot-high fence around Washington, D.C., to isolate these dunderheads and keep them from forcing things down our collective throats, like $7 billion fences that won’t work.


Speaking of fences, CNN reported on Sept. 28 that the government of Saudi Arabia has decided to build a 560-mile-long fence along that country’s border with Iraq, in order to prevent terrorists from entering the country with bad intentions.

Here’s the kicker, however. The Saudi fence, while admittedly 140 miles shorter than the one the U.S. Senate wants to build between our country and Mexico, is only expected to cost $500 million.

In other words, the Saudis plan to build a $500 million fence to keep terrorists out for about $89,285 a mile. The Americans want to build a $7 billion fence to keep out day laborers and poor people looking for a better life for a projected cost of $10 million a mile.

What’s up with that? Either the lawmakers in Washington have never heard of Home Depot, or the Saudi government has never heard of Haliburton.


Last week, a friend sent me a story about a study that found that left-handed men with at least some college education earn 15 percent more than similarly educated right-handers, and those lefties who finished college earn about 26 percent more.

The study, conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, presented no theories to explain their findings.

Seems to me that all they had to do was ask a few lefties and we could have told them what’s going on. Fact is, many of us have been forced to train our bodies to a certain degree of ambidextrousness simply in order to survive in a right-handed world. Almost all lefties you talk to do lots of things right-handed. It’s common for a lefty to bat right-handed, throw right-handed, play a musical instrument and eat right-handed because they’ve had to learn to do those things in order to get along.

How many righties can say the same thing? Have you ever seen a single right-handed person golf or play the guitar left-handed?

No, didn’t think so. And that’s why we lefties are sometimes a little more successful than our right-handed counterparts. Being forced to work harder and adapt has given us an evolutionary edge.


Two recent columns – one about embattled Keyport Mayor John Merla and one criticizing former Gov. James McGreevey – brought plenty of positive reader response. Two examples give the flavor of what they had to say.

Of the McGreevey column, one reader wrote, “Just wanted to tell you that you hit the nail right on the head with your editorial about McGreevey. BRAVO!!!!!!! He did this state a major disservice and he should be ashamed of the way he carried on while in office, and not rewarded.”

And of the Merla column, another wrote, “There are so many of us who are laughing!! I have taken to calling him the ‘Teflon John’ because I think he really thinks this is going to have a fairy tale ending.”

Thanks for the nice feedback.

Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.