VIEWPOINT: How do we round up 11 million people?

August 27, 2007

Sometimes, important social and political issues can be seen most clearly beyond Interstate 465. Take the problem of illegal aliens, for instance.

The latest statistics indicate 11 million to 12 million people, mostly from Latin America, are living in this country illegally. The practical reality is there's no way to "round up" 11 million people and ship them back to their countries of origin.

How do we go about it? About 11 million people live in Ohio. How realistic would it be-without even considering the cost-to put all the people in Ohio on buses and cart them off to Latin America? It actually might be easier to move all the residents of Ohio to Latin America than trying to round up millions of illegals scattered all over the continental United States who don't want to leave. (You might get Ohio residents to leave the country if somebody could convince them the Ohio State-Michigan football game was being held south of the border.)

Several months ago, Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Pa.) suggested federal legislation to require court checks on everyone who wants to come into this country legally. I'm surprised he doesn't know there's no national repository of convictions in Mexico.

Another idea is sealing our borders. There is no realistic way to close our borders with Mexico. Somebody suggested building a wall or putting up a fence all along our border with Mexico-a border that is 2,000 miles long! That's about how far it is from Chicago to Los Angeles. How does one-as a practical matter-close a border that's more than half the length of this continent?

I don't believe the fence has yet been built or wall constructed that somebody hasn't figured out how to climb over, cut through, or dig under, and has anybody priced what it might cost to purchase, let alone install, more than 2,000 miles of fencing?

Someone made the point that, if the Chinese could construct the 4,000-mile Great Wall of China, we could certainly build a fence to protect our borders. What's being overlooked is the Great Wall took more than 2,000 years to build. The real question, however, is, did the wall keep people out? Nope. The Mongols conquered China in the 13th century, followed by the Manchurians in the 17th century. Wasn't it Gen. George Patton who said that if oceans and mountains could be overcome, anything built by man could be overcome?

How about stationing troops along the border? Let's put one soldier every 100 yards, so they can at least see each other and wave back and forth. That would be about 18 soldiers per mile. That's more than 35,000 soldiers. Considering that we might want three eight-hour shifts, we're now up to 105,000 soldiers guarding just our southern border. I wonder what the price tag would be in terms of food, clothing, equipment, shelter and medical care for 105,000 soldiers.

There's only one way to solve this problem and that's to acknowledge what exists and devise some way to give limited citizenship to those already here. How can there realistically be any other solution to the illegal-alien problem than coming up with a scheme to declare them to be what they clearly are not-citizens? I don't think we have any other realistic options, short of ignoring the problem altogether or waiting for a really great sale on fencing.

Barada is an author and president of Barada Associates Inc., a reference-checking service in Rushville.
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