The construction of a 700-mile fence along the U.S. border is a desperate political ploy, and it could prove to be costly and ineffective.
On Oct. 26, President Bush signed a measure authorizing its construction, knowing very well that Congress appropriated only $1.5 billion for a fence that is estimated to cost between $2 billion and $9 billion.
This initial funding is, in part, meant for roads, electronic sensors and other tactics preferred by the Department of Homeland Security, which doesn't want a 700-mile fence.
According to The Washington Post, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke would not confirm if the agency is committed to building the proposed fence. He instead reiterated its commitment to test, by next year, a $67 million, 28-mile "virtual fence" that includes physical walls, vehicle barriers and remote monitoring.
The recently signed measure could also prove ineffective in stemming the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States.
First, the fence would cover only about one-third of the nearly 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico.
Second, smugglers along the border have been readjusting their routes for many years as border patrol priorities shift.
And third, 40 percent of the 12 million undocumented immigrants now in this country came here legally and then overstayed their visas. The measure is not even designed to combat that problem.
The scapegoating of undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America has been part of a Republican strategy this year to maintain the party's hold on Congress.
Instead of proposing effective immigration reform -- including a path to citizenship for undocumented employees who work hard and help the U.S. economy -- hard-liners in the House continue to block solutions in an attempt at political pandering.
The fence has upset two U.S. allies, namely Mexico and the Organization of American States. Outgoing Mexican President Vicente Fox calls the fence "shameful," while the OAS has urged the United States to "strongly reconsider it."
The fact is, undocumented immigrants already live and work in the United States. And almost every generation has seen the contributions of immigrants to our great melting pot.
Building a fence is no solution.
Ed Morales is a contributor to The New York Times and Newsday, and author of "Living in Spanglish" (St. Martin's Press, 2002). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.