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Moving Toward Better Border Security

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Moving Toward Better Border Security


Moving Toward Better Border Security

Moving Toward Better Border Security

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Critics of U.S. immigration policy urge enforcement of existing laws instead of creating new ones. Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform talks with Alex Chadwick about what ideal border security might look like.


We're going to talk about the actual physical border between the U.S. and Mexico now with Jack Martin. He is director of special projects for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. That's a non-profit group that advocates strict enforcement of existing immigration laws and newer tougher laws.

Jack Martin, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Mr. JACK MARTIN (Director of Special Projects, Federation for American Immigration Reform): Thank you, Alex. Glad to be with you.

CHADWICK: The border between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico is about 2,000 miles, yes?

Mr. MARTIN: A little longer than that, but yes.

CHADWICK: How much of it has an actual fence?

Mr. MARTIN: Most of it does not. It is fenced in areas where there are population settlements, but when you get outside of those settlement areas, what tends to characterize the border is simply posts that indicate the fact that there is a border there.

CHADWICK: When we say fence, we don't just mean one thing. In some places it's a steel wall. In other places barbed wire. What do you think is the state of the art in border fencing? What's the best border fence?

Mr. MARTIN: The most effective fencing is a double fencing, and the second fence that's further on the U.S. side than the solid barrier is one like a cyclone fence that you can see through, and the border patrol is patrolling between the two fences.

CHADWICK: Are you advocating a fence for the entire length of that border?

Mr. MARTIN: Well, we're not at the present time, but what we are advocating is an extension of existing fencing to cover those areas that are the chief entry points at the present time for both drug smugglers and alien smugglers. But it's important to keep in mind, Alex, that fencing itself doesn't do the job. You have to have people on the other side of the fencing to apprehend those people that will continue to try to come over it or under it or through it.

CHADWICK: The objection or I think central objection to this is that it would be so expensive to build a fence that would really, truly be an effective barrier that essentially it's impossible to do.

Mr. MARTIN: That is a false objection. The estimates of the additional fencing would be a few billion dollars.

CHADWICK: Does your figure of a few billion dollars, does that incorporate the additional cost for security people? Because you need, as you say, you need people behind the fence, yes?

Mr. MARTIN: That is only for the physical barrier itself. The costs of the manpower basically have already been contemplated in legislation as long ago as the Jordan Commission reports in 1996, calling for major increases in manpower on the border.

CHADWICK: Because I think what the opponents of this approach are saying is it's so much money to try to fortify the border, and then can you ever really keep people out with fences?

Mr. MARTIN: Well, you can keep people out with fences, but you can't do it with fences alone. That really is the reason for the emphasis that we put on reducing the job magnet in the United States that draws so many people illegally into the country looking for work here.

CHADWICK: You also call for the construction of new prisons, 20 new prisons?

Mr. MARTIN: We haven't put a number on the prisons. What we have insisted on is that if the knowledge is out there among the people who are thinking about illegally coming into the United States, that they're not going to be simply waved into the country with a piece of paper that said they should report for a hearing at some date in the future, that they're going to think twice about coming into the country.

CHADWICK: So you're saying if the message that the United States sends out is, we are really going to be very, very tough on people who are trying to come in and it's going to be an unpleasant experience, you may be held in prison for a while, we're going to send you back, and it's going to be much more difficult physically just to get across that border, that that will be enough to turn down the desire people have to come here?

Mr. MARTIN: That, coupled with the impression that it's going to be very, very, very difficult to get a job in the United States. Yes, we think that that actually is the solution to deter people from trying to come illegally into the country.

CHADWICK: Jack Martin is director of special projects for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Jack Martin, thank you for speaking with us on DAY TO DAY.

MARTIN: Thank you, Alex.

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