I’ve often heard people repeat an adage spoken by a character in a Robert Frost poem published almost 100 years ago.
“Good fences make good neighbors” is the phrase uttered by the neighbor of the narrator in Frost’s “Mending Wall” as he goes about his annual chore of mending the stone barrier that separates their two properties.
The trouble is, as the narrator points out, that axiom was outdated when Frost penned those words in 1914. So you’d think it is truly antiquated reasoning today.
But unfortunately, some folks don’t think so, considering that the U.S. Senate just passed a comprehensive immigration bill that includes building 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border under the pretense of making it more secure.
The $40 billion in added border security in the legislation, including an increase in the number of Border Patrol agents to 40,000 and 24-hour drone patrols, was a way of making the bill more palatable to conservative Republicans who insisted that securing the border had to be in place before providing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
It did pass the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 68-32, although Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted against it. The Texans, who see the legislation as providing amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, even cast nay votes for the amendment to increase border security.
Republican leaders in the House, despite appeals from their colleagues in the Senate, stated that they will not take up the Senate bill. They plan to produce their own proposal for immigration reform, which they say will have approval of a majority of their caucus and the American people. Their version is not likely to have a path-to-citizenship provision.
You can bet, though, that whatever the House comes up with will have a bunch of language about walls and fences. After all, you know they believe, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Actually, I don’t think they do believe that, just as I don’t believe those senators who voted for the bill think that constructing barriers along the border is a productive tool in fighting illegal immigration.
I hate the fence idea for lots of reasons. In addition to being ineffective, it is aesthetically and environmentally offensive. And while people here frankly don’t care what people in Mexico think, our neighbors to the south regard the wall-building and further militarization of the border as repugnant.
Yes, they are our neighbors. Our two countries are tied inextricably.
As I’ve noted before, Texas’ No. 1 trading partner is Mexico, and it’s the No. 3 trading partner for the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of State, the United States is Mexico’s largest trading partner and largest foreign investor.
And we want to put up walls to divide that kind of relationship?
Referring to border protection provisions in the newly passed bill, Sen. John McCain said they would make the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” according to The Washington Post.
I say that is nothing to be proud of.
Someone should have shouted before the legislation was passed, “Mr. McCain, tear down this wall.”
I suppose we’re stuck with it since that was one of the compromises Democrats had to make to win over Republican support for a bill that has to address legalizing the illegal immigrants already in the country.
Whether House members accept it or not, there has to be a path to citizenship.
So we’ll build our fence and continue to mend it, like the neighbor in Frost’s poem, telling ourselves that “good fences make good neighbors.”
But the narrator of the poem goes on to say:
“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
“What I was walling in or walling out,
“And to whom I was like to give offence.
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
“That wants it down.”
Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.