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Good Fences Make Bad Neighbors When the Berlin wall was completed in 1963, it became a clear symbol of the hostile divi9ion existing between East and West German cultures. Three tenfoot fences planned to be built by the INS along the U.S.-Mexico border will convey a similar message according to MALDEF and other Chicano groups. The Walls The Immigration and Naturalization Service revealed this October that it was planning to spend $4.4 million on three sixto eight-mile fences at border points in San Ysidro, California, El Paso, Texas, and San Luis, Arizona. Made of heavy metal and concrete, the fences would replace existing worn-out fences and would provide a substantially more impenetrable barrier. George Norris, Houston manager for Anchor Post Products, Inc ;, which will build the fences, called the planned barrier “the heaviest construction I’ve ever seen on a fence.” He added, “Because the grating is razor sharp” anyone climbing the fences barefoot would “leave his toe permanently embedded in it.” At present, only about 27 miles of the 2,000-mile border are fenced, mostly only at major crossing points. INS officials are hoping the new fences will stem the flow of border crossings by Mexican aliens. The fences are also supposed to help control border crimes against aliens, particularly in places like El Paso and San Ysidro where border gangs have committed several murders, rapes, robberies, and other assaults against indocumentados. MALDEF Protests At a Los Angeles news conference held to protest the move, MALDEF’s chief officer, Vilma Martinez, expressed fears that the fences will “escalate the already intolerable level of prejudice” against U.S. Chicanos. “These fences represent much more than three physical barriers,” said Martinez, “they represent the administration’s insensitivity to its closest neighbor, a neighbor which, throughout history, has provided a labor pool without which this country could not have developed. Wayne A. Cornelius is an associate professor of political science at M.I.T. who has studied the Mexican migration question deeply. In a recent study, he stated that the only effective way to reduce the flow of undocumented aliens would be for the U.S. to work with the Mexican government on creating jobs and improving incomes in Mexico. Construction of labor-intensive public works; creation of small-scale irrigation works, and development of rural industries are some suggestions posed by Cornelius. MALDEF exhorted the federal government to approach the immigration problem with these types of constructive measuresnot with fence-building. How Useful? Many feel the new construction will be relatively useless. The Washington Star recently quoted the chief of the El Paso Border Patrol as saying, “The fence . . won’t be invincible. It may stop beggars, mischievous children, and shoplifters. But I doubt anything will stop persons who are determined to come here and find work to feed their families.” Norris of Anchor Post Products speculated that indocumentados might “run cars through it, or put a cutting torch to it” or simply walk around it. Alphonse Valarde, director for the Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Catholic Conference in El Paso, believes that the fences may simply improve business for the people-smugglers who are paid large sums of money by poor Mexican peasants in order to sneak them across the border. Community Action Simultaneous MALDEF press conferences held in San Antonio, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., on October 23 gave MALDEF representatives and other Chicano leaders an opportunity to register their objections to the new barriers. Bert Corona of the Comite Nacional Organizacion Sindical de Trabajadores Immigrantes and Eduardo Pena and Frank Galaz of the League of United Latin American Citizens were among the many leaders sharing MALDEF’s protest of the newly dubbed “Tortilla Curtains.” These outcries have brought national attention to the fences and have spurred community action on the problem. One recent positive result has been an INS announcement that the fences will be redesigned so that people trying to scale them will not be cut by sharp metal wire. MALDEF is investigating further ways to fight building of the fences, and we continue to pressure the government to seek productive, long-range solutions to the problem of immigration. We need your help to pursue our work. MALDEF 501 Petroleum Commerce Building 201 N. St. Mary’s Street San Antonio, Texas 78205 Enclosed is my contribution of $ Name Address City State Zip_ Make checks payable to MALDEF. Contribitons are tax deductible. A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Executive Offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board 20