Fences with holes won’t be effective

We weren’t particularly enamored with the decision by Washington to construct a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, believing that it will be far less effective than claimed and that the problem of illegal immigration ultimately requires a much more holistic and balanced solution. But as long as a fence is going to be built, and taxpayers are going to possibly pay billions of dollars for it, we believe it should be built to work.

We therefore find laughable, if not downright surreal, suggestions from some, including environmental wackos and federal wildlife officials (who increasingly seem to share the same extremist mindset), that the fence be designed to permit jaguars, antelope and other wildlife to pass through — with holes or gaps in it, in other words.

One federal wildlife official has even proposed the building of a “virtual fence” in wildlife corridors, meaning no fence — which is what we already have along most of the 2,000 mile-long frontier.

And no, we aren’t making this stuff up.

“Land managers and environmental groups are concerned that if it is built, the new fence could wall off such imperiled species as the jaguar and Sonoran pronghorn from their historic migration corridors,” Greenwire reported last week.

“Generally, fences are not a good idea in nature,” Mitch Ellis, the manager of Arizona’s Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, told the environmental news Web site. “These walls or barriers that prevent people from moving also prevent wildlife from moving across the border each way … While we want to be as cooperative as we can with our counterparts in (the Department of Homeland Security), we would also like to have some input into the design of these things so wildlife can penetrate these things. If there are ways to modify the design to let some fauna move through the fence, we’d like to see that.”

His “counterparts” in the Department of Homeland Security? This man really must be delusional. The DHS has the job of safeguarding the nation against terrorists, among other threats. Those who run national wildlife refuges have the job of keeping tabs on cranes, mule deer and squirrels. We can’t take seriously the suggestion that the two agencies should have an equal say in the design of a border barrier.

We don’t pretend to be engineers, but we can’t conceive of a border fence that would allow wild animals, but not human beings, to cross. But perhaps we can just post signs near the gaps: “This fence opening for the use of wildlife only: All others will be prosecuted.” That should do the trick.

Much of where the proposed fence will run is federal land, so you can bet that environmentalists will use the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act and whatever other laws they can to slow or derail its construction, in the name of protecting jaguars, pronghorns and other creatures that inhabit the border region. Thus, at the end of the day, we’ll probably have the same “virtual fence” we have today.

We don’t doubt that immigrant smugglers will find ever more resourceful ways to get around, under, over or through whatever fence eventually gets built. But if we leave holes in it for jaguars, what exactly is the point? And what will we have spent billions of tax dollars for?