Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An Invisible Wall

One of the most contentious political issues in American politics is that of illegal immigration. For a country of immigrants, it seems hypocritical to limit immigration in any substantive way. But I wonder if immigration policy back in the early 1900’s would have been different if the immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Russia, Poland, and other European countries could have simply waded across the Atlantic. Back then, immigration was controllable, manageable and profitable, all qualities that a government backed by big business interests would find appealing. The tax base swelled, steamship lines, railroads and slumlords made piles of money, and a whole generation of desperately poor, often ignorant workers was available for exploitation by largely unregulated corrupt monopolies.

But today’s immigration problem has none of those qualities. The government can’t manage illegal immigration and the immigrants are benefiting by filling schools, emergency rooms and consuming other resources produced by the government agencies that can’t benefit from their goodwill in an election because illegal immigrants can’t vote.

Big businesses find themselves unable to exploit these workers because of undocumented worker laws. It would be disastrous PR if a big corporation was caught running illegal sweatshops. Instead, it’s the small businesses that are providing low-paying jobs to these workers – businesses that are willing to take the risk of being shut down in return for a chance to compete against corporate muscle.

So our government, ignoring the lessons of history, has chosen to build a fence along the Mexican border. The Great Wall of China didn’t prevent the Mongols from invading; all it took was a bribe to a gatekeeper. The Maginot Line didn’t stop the Germans from invading France; they just drove around it. The Berlin Wall worked pretty well, but at ruinous political cost.

As long as that border fence exists, it will be used by domestic and foreign opponents of exclusionary immigration policies as a broad, obvious target – a symbol of failure to manage and control a perceived problem. So I have a solution: An invisible fence that eliminates itself.

The US government should buy huge volumes of grain products from Mexico, which ought to be inexpensive because of cheap labor costs. Load this grain onto C130 Hercules aircraft, fly them along the US/Mexican border and dump the grain. That’s right, dump it into the desert, in the barren stretches between border cities.

Desert-dwelling rodents, such as mice and rats, will consume this bounty and propagate like crazy. Predators that prey on mice and rats will have their best year ever. One of them in particular will thrive: Crotalus atrox, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. The gestation period of this venomous reptile is 167 days. Three years later, their offspring will reach sexual maturity. The population will explode, and anyone attempting to cross the border without a suit of armor won’t last long. Our current Border Patrol agents can handle border-crossers in the urban areas; the Diamondbacks will deter the rest.

Meanwhile, conditions in Mexico will improve, as farmers find that they’re actually making money selling grain to the Americans. They’ll need farm workers to help with the planting and harvest. The farm workers will have money to spend on things for their families, passing the bounty along to the merchant class. Everyone will pay taxes to their government, who will suddenly have money for schools and hospitals.

The number of individuals attempting to cross the border will drop to a trickle, all in the space of a single Presidential term. The administration that follows this policy will be credited with its effectiveness, not their successors. Who knows? In 15 or 20 years, when Social Security goes belly-up, it may be the Mexicans that have the illegal immigration problem.

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