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February 28, 2008

Out--Or In?

I was lunching with a friend the other day when the subject of illegal immigration came up. Given her strong feelings about illegals crossing the border, I was surprised to discover that she was emphatically opposed to the building of a fence, the erecting of cameras, and all the other security apparatus that would go with it.

Why? Because, as she pointed out, the same fence that would keep illegals out, could one day be used to keep citizens of the United States IN.

I may be naive, but I never thought about that.

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Just another application of the slippery slope fallacy. What's so troubling is it gets (ab)used so much, and so few people are able spot it, much less treat it with the skepticism it deserves.

There are real cases where the slippery slope has traction (forgive the mixed metaphor) but generally only when it is based on historical precedent, not hypothetical musings.

We are guilty of the same fallacy when we argue that homosexual marriage will lead to polygamy, etc. Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn't, but the issue of homosexual marriage,like any issue, should be argued on its own merits.


Should I have also mentioned "paranoid"?


Alas, blogs do not always allow one to pick up on tone. Steve, I think Anne was joking....


Ditto. My suggestion of paranoia was concerning Anne's friend, not Anne.


The subject of illegal immigration also greatly troubles me and I too am skeptical, at best, of building a fence. I'm tempted to take the easy way out and simply say "It didn't work with the Great Wall, why do we think it will work with ours." There will always be ways to dig, cut, jump, swim around.

But that is not the only reason I think erecting a fence might not be the best idea. The whole discussion of "to build or not to build" the fence acts as if Mexico is the only source of illegal immigrants. It is not. Aside from the crossing the Canadian border, countless families and individuals come to America from all over legally but then remain here indefinitely--illegally. I can't help but wonder if our time, energy, and resources would be better spent with a holistic approach illegal immigration:

* Making it harder for businesses to hire them and more costly if they do
* Creating a system that would identify individuals who have overstayed their visas and a process by which we can locate them and enforce the law immediately
* Constructing a sound (and sane) plan to deal with illegal immigrants after they are detected that is both consistent and considerate (I'M not even sure what that might look like)

I just don't get the sense that building, and then maintaining, a fence will be anything but a waste of time, money, and resources; not to mention the political capital required to approve the project.

Jason Taylor

Actually it did work with the Great Wall. China is still China is it not? The true test is not whether it failed from time to time but whether it was worth the cost. It was inevitable that the barbarians would penetrate it from time to time in China's millenia of history. Any system of fortification can be overcome if you have enough strength and time and are willing to pay for it. Or if you can corrupt the local commander. However not every warlord would have enough control over his followers to take the time-often they would scatter if not provided with a quick supply of loot. And not every ccommander is corruptable.
In point of fact the Great Wall that exists now is the one built by the Manchu dynasty. Which was never overthrown by the threat from Central Asia but from other directions.
If by "didn't work", you mean,"didn't give China an unshakable guarantee of security" that is correct it didn't work. It did make China quite a bother to take on. And it did allow quite a few peasants to pick their rice in peace.


The back and forth over the Great Wall above is a good example of how the same facts can be seen as confirming by two people with opposite viewpoints. See Wikipedia: "attitude polarization". That little tidbit aside, the wall sure worked in Berlin but I don't see our country having the stomach to mercilessly slaughter violators.

We're probably in a no win situation. The more important priority, it seems to me, is to keep out the jihadists. Bin Laden himself could wade across the Rio Grande with impunity. But with the Canadian border unfenced, and thousands of miles of coastland accessible by any small boat, borders secure against terrorists may be unattainable.

Brian's probably right, at least from a pragmatic viewpoint, about using economics to win the battle against illegal immigration. That, plus anything we can to to fix the basket case that is the Mexican state.

Michael Snow

The fall of the Berlin wall was part of the Reagan legacy. It seems that a new wall may be the lagacy of the ultr-right. (A wall for which we will have to borrow more money from China.)

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