Do Border Fences Curb Illegal Crossings?

The Senate continues to work on an immigration bill that includes a guest worker program, earned naturalization and proposals for hundreds of miles of fences on the Mexican border. Guests discuss whether border fences are effectively used in other parts of the world.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Good fences make good neighbors is the famous line from Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall. It's also the last line. The first line of the poem is, Something there is that doesn't love a wall.

In his address to the nation last week, President Bush argued for what he calls a comprehensive immigration policy, a plan that includes a guest worker program, a way for illegal immigrant to earn American citizenship, and tougher security along the U.S. border with Mexico.

This week, the Senate hopes to pass an immigration bill, more or less, along the line the President described. It's far from clear whether a Senate bill could be reconciled with the measure already approved by the House of Representatives, which focuses exclusively on enforcement. But one thing that the President, the Senate, and the House all agree on is the need for hundreds of miles of high-tech fences to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants. Our focus for much of this hour is on the border barriers that already exist between Mexico and the United States, what's proposed for the future, and whether it can work.

Later in the program, Elaine Pagels is on the TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page to talk about the nature of Jesus Christ, the politics of the early church, Gnostic Gospels, and the Da Vinci Code.

But first, borders and fences. If you have a question about what's there now and what's proposed, give us a call now, 800-989-8255. Later, we'll hear two views on whether it's a good idea. And we'd like to hear from you on that as well. Again, it's 800-989-825, that's 800-989-TALK. The email address is totn@npr.org. We'd especially like to hear from those of you who live or work near the Mexican border. Joining us now from the studios of member station KPBS in San Diego, California is Bob Keefe, a national reporter who covers the West Coast for Cox Newspapers.

Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. BOB KEEFE (National Reporter, Cox Newspaper): Thanks, Neal. Thanks for having me.

CONAN: One of the provisions in the Senate bill would add, oh, hundreds of miles of fences along the U.S./Mexico border. There's already a fence 14 miles long called the Tortilla Wall that separates the southwestern California from Mexico. Tell us about it. When was it built?

Mr. KEEFE: The fence was built back 10, 15 years ago, I believe, beginning. But it's a series of three fences that essentially run from the Pacific Ocean about 14 miles inland, past San Ysidro, which is the main - actually, the biggest port of entry for the United States from Mexico.

CONAN: What does it look like?

Mr. KEEFE: It's pretty intimidating, actually. From both sides, there's a - the main fence is concrete and steel that runs the United States most part of the line. And then there's two other fences behind that. These things are equipped with cameras and seismic sensors underground and on the fence itself. And lots of Border Patrol guys on ATVs and dune buggies and horseback.

CONAN: Mm hmm. I know you've also talked with people on both sides of that fence. What do they think about it?

Mr. KEEFE: The folks that I've talked to on the United States side, it's just part of life. It's there. They know it's there. They know that people get around it, under it, over it. On the Mexican side, if you talk to people in Tijuana and along the border, they see it as, frankly, kind of an affront. I've talked to folks down there who say - I asked them what it means to them. They say it's a sign of racism.

CONAN: Hmm.

Mr. KEEFE: And all we want to do is go to the United States and work. But everyday, we look up at this thing and we have to pass through it to go to work.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And how well does it work?

Mr. KEEFE: Depends on who you talk to. If you talk to the Border Patrol, of course, tells you that the number of illegals that they've captured has gone down from 530,000 in 1993 to about 127,000 in 2004.

CONAN: And that's just along this portion of the border.

Mr. KEEFE: That's just along this portion of the border. But there are also, as you know, many ways to get around it.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KEEFE: In the desert, the opponents of more fencing say it just pushes people in the desert. Last year, the number of dead in the desert went from about 330 a year ago to about 500 folks that were trying to cross the desert east of San Diego. And then you have 40 tunnels that were found over there underneath the fence in the past five years. And the Border Patrol says that one of the growing ways around it is Mexican nationals posing as fishermen and coming around the San Diego Bay.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KEEFE: So there are definitely ways around it.

CONAN: So, and if you're trying to get through that big crossing point, you mentioned, how long does it take if you're coming from the Mexico to the United States?

Mr. KEEFE: It can take anywhere from an hour to several hours. The radio stations in Tijuana will broadcast, for instance, how long the border waits are.

CONAN: Like traffic reports.

Mr. KEEFE: Exactly. Like traffic reports.

CONAN: Huh. So if it's, you know, if it's really backed up today, it could be two hours, three hours, four hours, whatever it is?

Mr. KEEFE: That's right. And if you walked along the line every morning of folks coming into the United States from Mexico, they know that if they're at a certain shop on the side of the street there, it's going to take them 45 minutes. They know if it's backed up to the bridge there, it's going to take them an hour.

CONAN: Heh.

Mr. KEEFE: And it's really is like commuting traffic in every other city in the country.

CONAN: Now, the proposals for this new fencing, in addition to this so-called Tortilla Wall, there's I guess about 60 miles of fencing at various other sports along the 700 or so miles of the U.S./Mexico border. But this is calling for hundreds of miles of stuff. And it sounds like the same kind of similar kinds of technology that you were talking about, you know, infrared cameras, motion sensors, devices to detect whether there's a tunnel being dug.

Mr. KEEFE: That's my understanding, Neal. As you know, on other parts of the border there are bits and pieces of fence that are pretty raggedy, and anybody can get on, under, around them. The proposal in Congress would make it modeled after the 14 miles here in San Diego, which is significantly more formidable.

CONAN: And as I understand it, though, it requires - it's going to require an awful lot to coordinate all of these different sensor information. You know, to get all the information from all these different devices. And well, you know, I guess it depends how close to, you know, some disruption along the fence. You know, how close is anybody going to be? How quickly can they react to it?

Mr. KEEFE: Well, that's a good point. Actually, last week, I talked to some Border Patrol folks about what they have technology wise out there now. And I'll give you an example. They have about 6,700 motion and seismic sensors along the border. They've got 413 cameras. A hundred and fifty-five mobile units with infrared cameras and night vision and things like that, that monitor the stretch of the border.

And I said, how well do those work? And they said, well, it works, you know, pretty well. But, for instance, they always have problems with cows setting off the motion sensors. And sometimes these sensors go off miles and miles away, and it could take, literally, hours for the Border Patrol to dispatch somebody to those...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KEEFE: ...to those spots, usually well after folks have crossed there. But, again, the Border Patrol says that it is still effective because it can help them find out where these folks are going, anyway. And, as they call it, back down on them.

CONAN: One element of new technology they're talking about is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles - drones - like the predator aircraft that we've seen in use in various places, most - I guess people remember Afghanistan and Iraq, of course. But, as I understand it, there have been problems with those.

Mr. KEEFE: Well, that's right. Actually, the Border Protection Agency's only drone crashed and burned last month, inexplicably. But the Border Patrol folks say that, hey, this thing is really, really good. It's really necessary. It helped them apprehend 2,300 illegal immigrants and something like 23 drug seizures in the less than a year that they had the thing operating. But they definitely want more of them, but as you mentioned, it's, when it crashes and burns, it's kind of, not so good.

CONAN: Those things aren't cheap, either.

Mr. KEEFE: That's right.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail question we got from Steven(ph) in San Rafael, California: "My question is: how difficult is it just to swim out into the ocean and swim around the tortilla wall? How far out into the ocean does it go?"

Mr. KEEFE: That's a good question. I don't think it actually goes out into the ocean. It's a series of poles that goes - literally, metal poles that run all the way into the ocean. You can swim around it, but it's mighty chilly out there in the Pacific.

CONAN: Let's...

Mr. KEEFE: Easier by boat.

CONAN: Let's get some listeners involved in the conversation, 800-989-8255. And this is Gregory(ph). Gregory calling us from San Diego.

GREGORY (Caller): Yes, good morning. The wall that separates San Diego and Tijuana is really in a pretty confined space. It's in an urban area. So that kind of favors, you know, halting the traffic - the illegal traffic across the border. But to do it for the entire length - and I believe you'd have to do something similar to this for the entire length of the U.S.-Mexican border - I still wonder if it would be effective, because the terrain goes through deserts and mountains, and I don't see how it's humanly possible.

I mean, for 14 miles in an urban setting, where you have houses on both sides of the wall, this is - we are twin cities, San Diego and Tijuana. I mean, we are like, you know, Minneapolis, St. Paul. And so, it's easier to maintain it in an urban zone than in the wide-open spaces. Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Gregory. Does he have a point, Bob Keefe?

Mr. KEEFE: I think he does. And that's a real good point. And it's not just the expanses of desert that you might imagine of being back east, Neal. We're talking about really rocky areas: canyons, lots of sagebrush, places where it's really trough to get - for anybody to get around. But, it's just really tough.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Any estimate yet on what any of this hundreds of miles of fencing may cost? Billions, it would seem to be.

Mr. KEEFE: Well, the Senate last week passed an amendment that would add 370 miles of fence that would cost about $900 million, or about 3.2 million a mile. The House - the separate House bill, would call for about 700 miles of fence, I believe, that would cost about 2.2 billion, which everybody thinks is a very small, a very low estimate, just based on the cost of the one in San Diego and elsewhere.

I think what's going to happen is sometime after the Senate bill passes, probably this week, they'll go into conference and sort this out. And it may end up fenced somewhere in between those links, or who knows, maybe not at all.

CONAN: Bob Keefe, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.

Mr. KEEFE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bob Keefe is a national reporter who covers the west coast for Cox Newspapers. And he joined us today from the studios of member station KBPS in San Diego.

When we come back from the break, we'll continue talking about border security and what the U.S. should do to enforce our border. Coming up next, views from both sides of the fence: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address is talk@npr.org.

I'm Neal Conan. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking about border security this hour and the role of fences. Both chambers of Congress have plans for bigger and better border barriers. Both involve hundreds of miles of fences and billions of dollars. Can more fencing really solve America's immigration issues? We're going to hear two views on the question. We want to hear from you as well: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK; e-mail is talk@npr.org.

Joining us now is Washington Post Columnist Charles Krauthammer. In his Friday column, he wrote that fences may be the only thing that work to enforce border security. He's with us now from his office here in Washington, D.C. Good to talk with you again.

Mr. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER (Columnist, The Washington Post): Pleasure to be with you.

CONAN: Also with us is Mark Trahant. He edits the editorial page at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. His column in yesterday's paper was titled, Fencing is not good for America. He's with us from his office in Seattle. Nice to have you on the program as well.

Mr. MARK TRAHANT (Editor and Columnist, Seattle Post-Intelligencer): Thank you.

CONAN: And, Charles Krauthammer, let's start with you. Why is a fence a good idea?

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Fences work. There are a lot of borders in the world that have fences and they keep people in or out, depending what your purpose is. People have fences around their houses for good reason - not because they're being unneighborly, but because you want to welcome people into your house, but you want to control who comes in.

It's extremely simple, and I find all the arguments against it that either argue in advance - it can't happen, it can't be done, it will not work - rather interesting. How do we know, and what's the evidence that it won't work? If you do it the way that say - the Israelis have a fence that separates the northern part of Israel from the West Bank. And their people are far more determined to get across then the mere immigrants.

They're coming across to kill. And they're very determined and they have been stopped absolutely cold over the last two years with a very simple set of fences. It can be done if you want to do it. The question is, do we want to control our borders or not?

CONAN: Mark Trahant, why do you think fences are a bad idea?

Mr. TRAHANT: Well, let me start by pulling the lens out. I think America is at its best when we're an open society. And we want people to come here, we want the flow of ideas. And I think fences are a metaphor that get in the way of that. From the practical aspect, when as much anywhere from a third to a half of the illegal immigration is from visa overstays, I just don't see that being a particularly effective way to control that.

CONAN: All right, well let's get some listeners involved in the conversation...

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Mm-hmm. May I make a point here?

CONAN: Yes, I guess.

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Look, if you - the idea that we - we're an open society, therefore, we should not have a fence, is a non-sequitur. I'm in favor of immigration. I'm in favor of large amounts of immigration. But, I'm in favor of immigration under American law, where we decide who comes in what circumstances, from what countries, under what numbers, and with what qualifications.

And I would have very large numbers. It's a great thing that America's an immigrant society. But it's simply a non-sequitur to say that we have to have immigration open to anybody who decides he wants to come by getting into a bus run by a bunch of coyotes in Mexico.

Mr. TRAHANT: Well, I agree with that, but I think the way...

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: (unintelligible)

Mr. TRAHANT: ...you do...

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: (unintelligible)

Mr. TRAHANT: ...going through the fence...

CONAN: All right...

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: ...immigration.

CONAN: Gentlemen, you'll both have time to have you're say, but let's do it once, one at a time, if you would. I think Charles Krauthammer had finished his idea. Mark Trahant?

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: The defense rests.

CONAN: All right, thank you.

Mr. TRAHANT: I think, and in fact, I agree with that. What I'd like to see though, is we need to encourage people to come in through the front door. And we're clearly not doing that. And I think we could be far more effective if that's where we put our resources.

CONAN: All right. Now let's get some listeners involved and get your responses to them. Let's go to Judy(ph). Judy's with us from Asheboro, North Carolina.

JUDY (Caller): Yes, thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

JUDY: I work at the Department of Social Services in Asheboro. And I do see the bills that come in all over our - in our area, to pay for these illegal immigrant's gunshot wounds, car accidents, you name it. And yes, I think we desperately need a better border, a stronger border, but we also need to penalize the employers who are hiring these illegal aliens.

When the jobs dry up, the illegal aliens will drop. And I agree with the gentlemen. I am for immigration, but I am for immigration on our terms, and for people to do it legally. I will take your reply off the phone, thank you.

CONAN: Okay, Judy, thanks very much for the call. And I guess penalties for employers are another subject for another day. But, Mark Trahant, on the subject of the fence, Judy - like many people - thinks well, maybe it's not perfect, but it's a start.

Mr. TRAHANT: I just don't think it'll work. I mean, we've not been effective with drugs or other areas we've tried to prevent from people coming in.

CONAN: Well, Charles Krauthammer, one of the areas where drugs seems to come in is across the border.

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Yeah, but you could drop a bunch of drugs out of plane without a parachute. You can't do that with immigrants. And if you did that, it would be a very small trickle. Look, nobody argues that a fence is going to stop everyone. However, on the areas where you have a fence, let's assume it was 90 percent a fence, that reduces the amount of area that you have to patrol to one-tenth.

So if you concentrate your human resources on the parts that are not fenced, you've multiplied your effectiveness dramatically. It's a rather simple proposition. And if for some reason it were not so, if for some reason all of these arguments are false, the cost would be fairly minimal, given the size of our economy.

We spent about 15 billion on the Big Dig in Boston, which took an elevated highway and put it underground. If we spend a fraction of that on fencing on the border with Mexico, we would have, I think, a dramatic improvement on our immigration situation.

CONAN: I should point out, we didn't mean to, when we started, spend all those billions on the Big Dig. It just turned out to cost that much.

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Well, a lot of those senators who are whining about the cost of a fence are those who've been pouring the billions into the Big Dig. And I won't even name one of them, even if he's a Kennedy.

CONAN: Let's get some more listeners in on this. John(ph), John's calling from Philadelphia.

JOHN, (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

JOHN: Hi, I was going - I just want to go back, actually, kind of. What a - I don't understand why people seem to feel that America, we weren't supposed to be a society that's built on immigrants. So why are we now all of a sudden making this division?

They're not allowed to come and, I mean, people can say, well, they're not Americans, they're not paying taxes. But I heard that in the economy, they're actually, it can be argued that they are of benefit or they are not. So I mean, that issue is not clear. So what else is there for - as a reason for them not being allowed to come? What's wrong with just opening up the border? I mean, you could that'd say that would be crazy and havoc, but what would actually...

CONAN: Well, Mark Trahant, what do you think? Would that be a good idea, to just open the border?

Mr. TRAHANT: No, I think you want them to come in the front door, through the border, where you can keep track of folks. I do think that we go through this debate in our country's history from time to time, and it's a regular repeating cycle. And we're just doing it again.

CONAN: As we did in, I guess most famously, back in 1924?

Mr. TRAHANT: Sure. The pressure is always greater. And, unfortunately, one of the things that I wrote about Sunday is, when this happens, it ends up being at a time when the economy goes south. So, those pressures are intertwined.

CONAN: And, Charles Krauthammer, you wrote in your article that the way it works now, the United States - and you sort of mentioned it again here - has no choice about who comes, as opposed to an immigration policy that selects for engineers, doctors, teachers, people that we want to come to the country.

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Well, precisely. We have, as I wrote in the column, we're sort of like in a position of an NFL team with the first million draft picks of the - millions of people around the world who want to come to America, who are languishing in lines at consulates all over the world, with endless processes to get a green card and who end up coming here in very small numbers.

Why don't we admit them in larger numbers? If we can shut the border with Mexico, which is essentially open, we can decide who comes and when, with what skills. We are squandering one of the great assets of America, which is it is a magnet for the best and the brightest around the world, and would allow us to pick the kind of immigrants at whatever level of skill and education we want. But right now, we have essentially forfeited those decisions and left them entirely in the hands of people who come across the border at night.

CONAN: John, thanks very much for the call.

Mr. TRAHANT: Can I follow up on that?

CONAN: Yeah, go ahead please.

Mr. TRAHANT: This is actually something - I think there may be some agreement here - well, except for the fence. Instead of putting your resources into the fence, I'd put a lot more into the State Department and to be able to get people to be processed across the world in a lot greater numbers, in smarter ways.

CONAN: I hear you, what you're saying, Mark Trahant, but how does that stop another 11 million people from walking across the border with Mexico?

MARK TRAHANT (Editor, Seattle Post Intelligencer Editorial Page): I think one of the reasons 11 million people are here is because there's a neat, orderly process to get in now.

CONAN: So there's so many barriers to them, many of the people who come across are low-skilled people who, under the program that Charles Krauthammer just described and you agreed with, wouldn't qualify?

Mr. TRAHANT: Well, I just was in the Yakama Valley where they need people to work, too. So it's a combination of - the combination of skilled workers and unskilled workers. But that 11 million people you take as a hard number, as much as half of that came on Visa overstays. So those folks would be here anyway.

CONAN: And Charles Krauthammer, he has a point, Visa overstays and, again, even if there's an effective fence, fishing boats, people can find other ways around and through.

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: How many per boat? I mean, what we're talking about is taking a river, a torrent, which is totally out of control, and turning it into a few streams and trickles. Of course, they will still be people smuggled in at night on small boats, people who dig a tunnel under a fence, how many of those are possible? And how narrow a choke point is created when you do that. I mean, it seems obvious you will have these small streams and trickles, but those are obviously controllable by the kinds of resources and the people we have at the border.

And what we have, this completely open space now, is completely uncontrollable. So yes, there will be very small trickles who will make it and that will happen and it will have generally no impact as a micro event on America, as a whole; whereas the huge numbers who come in now and who are here illegally has a huge effect - a macro effect on America, on the culture, on the language, on services - as we heard in that caller - all over the country, particularly in the southwest, but in the major cities everywhere.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Margaret(ph). Margaret calling from Portland, Oregon.

MARGARET (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Margaret.

MARGARET: I would just like to say that however much we spend on a fence, if we spend a million, a billion, a trillion, as long as our standard of living is so much higher than those around us, people that are poor will want to try to get here. And they'll, you know, break the law to get here or risk their lives. If we spend that amount of money on helping people in other countries raise their standard of living, they won't want to come here because, you know, they want to stay where their family is and where their language is. And I think that would be a better use of resources.

CONAN: Mark Trahant, would that be something you would agree with?

Mr. TRAHANT: I - absolutely. I think we could be a lot more cost-effective in that regard.

CONAN: And Charles Krauthammer?

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: I agree that if Mexico, tomorrow, acquired the standard of living of the United States, the pressure on the border would disappear; but that's a pipe dream. I believe in NAFTA, which over perhaps half-a-century or a century may accomplish that. But in the meantime, we've got half-a-century and a century.

I'll give you a counter-example. Australia has a huge standard of living compared with all of its neighbors, but it doesn't have a flood of immigrants. Why? It's an island. If it had a frontier like ours with Mexico it would have had exactly the problem that we have. So it has what we are proposing, a physical barrier, namely ocean, God-given, which protects them from waves of illegal immigration. And what I'm arguing is we have that everywhere except for one stretch, which is where the flood of immigrants is coming from.

CONAN: Margaret, thanks for the call.

MARGARET: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking about the idea of fences, many hundreds of miles of fences along the border with Mexico. Our guests are Charles Krauthammer, a columnist for the Washington Post, and Mark Trahant, editor of the Editorial Page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Mark Trahant, I wanted to ask you about another point you made in your piece, I guess it was yesterday. And that is the symbolism of this fence along the border with Mexico and the idea of the United States walling itself off from the rest of the world.

Mr. TRAHANT: Right, that's what troubles me the most. It's not just this one issue, but we're in this period of time where we're starting to move toward lots of walls and fences.

Here in the Northwest, we're having a great discussion about whether or not you should need a passport to go into Canada and back and forth. And it's interesting to me, because I talked to my colleagues on the other side of the border and they laugh and say, it's not as much of an issue in Canada because Canadians have passports. They don't think of it the same way; whereas here it's a big deal because so few Americans have passports.

CONAN: And the example you cite, in terms of the symbolism, is, I guess, is the example a lot of people cite, and that's the Berlin Wall.

Mr. TRAHANT: Well, that's...

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: If I may?

CONAN: Go ahead, Charles.

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: When you build a wall to keep people in, it's a prison. When you build a wall to keep people out, it's your home. And it's completely normal. It's been done since time immemorial. The Berlin Wall was a prison. This is the exact opposite. And the fact is that if you construct a wall, yes, it's going to look ugly and there will be people who make the completely inappropriate analogy to the Berlin Wall. But what I would do is to say, yes, it's going to be aesthetically ugly and perhaps a bad symbol, although that would be a misinterpretation. But I would declare that, on the day the wall was completed, on the day the golden spike - the golden chain link is placed right in the middle where the two halves meet, I would begin legalization for all 11 million in America.

In other words, I would couple it with a declaration of welcome, which is exactly what I want. I want to welcome people here that we choose under our conditions. It's not that we're against immigration. It's that we're against uncontrolled immigration.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller in. This is John(ph). John calling from Nogales in Arizona.

JOHN (Caller): Yeah, hi. I wanted to get in and talk about the border fence. Where I work here - I'm with the border patrol agent here in Arizona - we have a fence, not like San Diego's; but where there actually is a fence, the aliens don't cross; or if they do, it's a lot easier to catch them. Where there isn't a fence, the further out from town you go, it's like where I am today there's like a two-strand barbwire fence that anything could come through. There's just nothing; it's just desert and a barbwire fence. And there it's hard to catch them. Where there is a fence and cameras, it's easy to catch them. So to whatever extent that helps, fences do make it easier to catch the aliens.

CONAN: And what I've heard though is, people cut through the fences, people even blow holes in them?

JOHN: Well, the fences like in San Diego and where I work and such, they vary in height and stuff, but they're pretty much a solid metal fence. And sometimes, yes, they will blow torch holes through them or jump over them or something. But to do that takes more time and energy and it's easier for us to catch them. Whereas where there's no fence, like out in the desert there's just a barbwire fence, groups of 20 or 50 come cruising through; they drive vehicles through with drugs and aliens and there's just nothing. Some places aren't anything. There's just a line, basically.

CONAN: We just have a few seconds left, John, but in your opinion as a border patrol agent, would it work?

JOHN: It makes it easier. I don't know if it'd stop it, but it would make every day easier, yes.

CONAN: All right, John, thanks very much and good luck to you.

And I'd like to thank both of our guests, Charles Krauthammer, a columnist for The Washington Post who joined us today from his office here in Washington, D.C. Always good to have you on the program, Charles.

Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: It's a pleasure as always.

CONAN: Mark Trahant, editor of the Editorial Page for the Seattle Post Intelligencer who wrote the Sunday editorial titled, Fencing is Not Good for America. He joined us from his office in Seattle, Washington. Nice to speak with you, as well.

Mr. TRAHANT: Thank you very much.

CONAN: When we come back from a short break, The Da Vinci Code is on this week's TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page. Religious historian, Elaine Pagels, says what's important about the movie is not what it got wrong, but what it got right. We want to hear what you think: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address is talk@npr.org. Back after the break, I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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