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Border Fence Advocate Can't Explain Why “He Knows” It Will Work

News Hounds | June 19, 2007

It was another simplistic, unbalanced discussion of the border security fence on Hannity & Colmes last night (6/18/07) that ignored the sentiments and situations of those who actually live on the border. The fence advocate who was the sole guest could not explain to Alan Colmes why he knows the fence will work. With video.

The guest, Steve Elliott (misidentified as “Elliot” on the FOX News screen) is president of an organization called grassfire.org which just produced a video called “Where's the fence” a la the old “Where's the beef?” commercial. Elliott appears to be based in Maxwell, Iowa . Not exactly a border state, much less a border town. Nevertheless, he declared confidently, “Everyone wants to know where the fence is.”

No, not everyone. Had the FOX News producers made any kind of attempt to be truly fair and balanced, they would have acknowledged the depth of opposition from border residents, merchants, ranchers, Native American tribes and environmentalists.

Sean Hannity is a New Yorker whose only familiarity with life on the border seems to be his designer-shirted photo-ops . But, he said, “Five and a half years after 9/11, we especially want to know (where the fence is).” I have yet to see Hannity indicate a moment of interest in implementing any of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission but there he was, pretending that illegal immigrants from Mexico were somehow related. In fact, as he ought to know, all 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the country on legitimate visas and only six had violated them by overstaying, enrolling in school when they entered as tourists, or failing to enroll when they entered as students.

When it was Colmes' turn, he said the pending immigration bill is lousy because of the fence. Noting that the bill is expected to cost $3.2 million a mile, he asked, “What's it made of, solid gold?”

Elliott claimed, “We do know that building a fence is actually the most affordable way to secure the border.”

“According to whom?” Colmes asked.

“According to everything that I've read,” Elliott said, yet never named a single source. “And I'm sure everything that most of the people out there in America know.”

“According to whom?” Colmes asked again. “Who says it's the best way to secure the border.”

Elliott either could not or would not answer. “Well, if you've been to San Diego, you've seen what I've seen, which is that a fence actually does work.”

“Yeah, they go around the fence,” Colmes correctly pointed out .

Once again, Elliott had no rebuttal so he resorted to snark. “Well, Alan, you may be the last one to come to this realization but fences really do work.”

Colmes responded, “What evidence is there that it worked? We haven't reduced immigration with what they've done so far… What evidence is there that it works, Steve?”

Elliott dodged the question. “The heart of the matter is that Congress promised to build a fence. And the president signed the bill. Yet, there's no will among this Congress or this president to do what they said they were going to do last year.”

Colmes acknowledged that Elliott was right about that but again noted, “You keep saying that there's evidence that it works. You failed to provide any evidence that a fence actually works because we haven't really had one that's gonna cover the entire border and we're NOT gonna have a 2,000 mile fence even when this bill is completed.”

Elliott claimed, “Obviously, there's places where we don't need a border (sic) but we need 7, 800 miles of fence, certainly to make this work.”

By the way, no credentials were ever provided for Elliott. His website simply says he has “a background in communications and public policy.” I'd love to know how much time he has spent working on immigration and border issues. Because he obviously didn't know or didn't care about all the opposition to the fence in the places where it's supposed to go.

For example, on October 1, 2006, the LA Times reported in an article called, In Texas, Little Support for Putting Up Fences :

Along the Rio Grande, residents say the barrier approved by Congress would sever cultural and economic ties, and cut off access to the river… Few Americans are more fed up with the unending human caravan of illegal immigration - or more familiar with its macabre toll - than rancher Mike Vickers. Multitudes of bedraggled migrants cut through his South Texas homestead every day to skirt U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints on their journey north, and many do not make it out alive. Vickers has found frightened children sitting in fields alone, abandoned. His dogs once brought home a human head. He very badly wants to stop the trail of death and despair that passes by his doorstep. But when he considers the wisdom of building twin steel walls along the Rio Grande to seal off the Mexican border - the plan Congress approved early Saturday before heading home for the November election - his verdict is swift and harsh: stupid idea.

"That's just a big waste of money," said Vickers, a Texas Republican activist who heads a group opposed to illegal immigration that until recently was the state branch of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

…From Laredo to Brownsville, a meandering 200-mile stretch of the Rio Grande that would be walled off if President Bush signs, as expected, the bill to fence 700 miles of the border, reaction was overwhelmingly negative.

There are many reasons border residents object to the fence: economic (they fear it will cut off trade with neighbors in Mexico), environmental, and cultural. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported last year,

Mike Allen, director of the McAllen (Texas) Economic Development Corp., said leaders from along the Rio Grande agreed at a recent gathering: "Every single mayor from Brownsville to El Paso is against it.

"We want people to support our immigration laws because we live here," said Allen, who lives a half-mile from the border. "But this will be a tremendous waste of money, and it will not stop (illegal) immigration. People will just go around it."

Among those hurt most by illegal immigration are members of the Tohono O'odham Indian tribe, whose desert land stretches along 70 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border. But tribal leaders don't want their land to be fenced, as proposed under the Sensenbrenner bill, because that would prevent Indian people and wildlife from crossing the border as they are accustomed to. "We need the Border Patrol, but we have to balance that with respecting the sovereignty of our nation, our land and our people," tribal Chairwoman Vivian Juan-Saunders said in an interview last year. "It's a sensitive balancing act."

Outside Douglas, Ariz., ranchers Warner and Wendy Glenn have seen the number of illegal immigrants crossing their land skyrocket over the past decade. The Glenns rely on the Border Patrol but enforcement doesn't stop the influx; it just shifts where migrants cross, Wendy Glenn said.

A "monster fence" would block migration paths for deer, javelina, coyotes and mountain lions, and damage the sensitive desert ecosystem; accompanying new patrol roads could even create easier routes for smugglers, she said.

"It will only open up more access for drugs and illegals, with more traffic and more damage," Glenn said. "Washington policymakers have no clue what is happening out here on the ground."

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