America is, in theory, based on the rule of law and individual rights. While the Bush administration has long claimed to support American values, its actions have consistently violated these values. One excellent example of this is the situation involving the plan to put up a border fence in Brownsville, Texas. The purpose of the fence is to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. This will no doubt work as well as other such fences in history.
The rule of law is an important component of American democracy. Abiding by this principle means following the law. If the laws are regarded as flawed, then the proper step to take is to change the laws so as to rectify the problem. To simply ignore or waive laws in an unprincipled way is clearly a violation of the notion of the rule of law. The Bush administration has quite a record of violating the rule of law and their guiding philosophy seems, to borrow a phrase from Eric Cartman, is “I do what I want.” In the case of the Texas fence Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff decided to waive 36 laws. Among the laws he has elected to bypass are the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Naturally, it can be argued that laws sometimes have to be set aside in order to serve a greater good. For example, businesses are often granted exemptions so as to help the economy and emergencies can require that certain laws be suspended. However, from a moral standpoint this sort of thing should be done in a principled manner and only when doing so does, in fact, serve the greater good.
In the case of the fence, it seems unlike that it will work. Fences are easy to deal with-people can go around, through or over them with some effort. This is not to say that the US should leave its borders defenseless, but that putting up fences is not an effective way of keeping people out (or in). Further, the fence will waste resources that could be better used in other ways, such as more effective means of border defense and dealing with immigration.
Finally, a fence is not the sort of thing that is consistent with the American ideal: “Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
As noted above, America is founded on the concept of individual rights. Along with this is the notion that the state should not trample the citizens in a manner befitting a tyrant. In the case of the fence, many local residents oppose it. Some have refused to yield their land, their private property, to the will of the Bush administration. Naturally, the state simply plans to use eminent domain in order to take by force what it could not win with consent. This is, of course, typical. The Bush administration has shown little respect for the rights of most citizens and little respect for morality and decency.
It could be replied that the state needs to be able to act in this manner so as to serve the greater good. For example, the state might need to build a road through an area and it would not do if a single person could stand in the way of such development by refusing to yield her land.
Of course, this once again raises the question of whether doing this actually serves the general good. The evidence seems to be (as argued above) that it would not. The state should wield its power against its own only when there is no other choice and only when doing so serves a greater good. The fence does not meet these conditions. Hence, the Bush administration should take the same approach here that its has generally taken with corporations, namely keeping its hands off.
One other concern is the environmental impact of the fence. The fence will cut through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and many experts believe that it will be rather bad for the environment (hence the need, as noted above, for numerous laws to be bypassed). Texas actually derives significant income from the environment via tourism. Hence, this fence will also harm the economy.
Finally, the fence seems to nicely illustrate the usual way the administration does things: by poor planning and in secrecy. Fish and Wildlife officials and local citizens have reported that they could not get consistent information about where the fence would be built and exactly what was planned. This is business as usual for this administration.
One good thing about the upcoming election is that the odds seem to be that no matter who gets elected, s/he cannot possibly be as bad as the current President and his fellows. Hopefully, the next President will fix the fence problem…and the multitude of other problems that will be dumped on his/her desk on day one.