It would be churlish not to acknowledge that the Washington Post's long story today about the inadequacy of America's attempt to prevent illegals crossing the border from Mexico has real merit—besides being one of the Post's most viewed articles, a good sign. [An Often-Crossed line in the Sand , by Kevin Sullivan, March 7, 2005. Access requires free registration.]
First of all, the story exists. Have you seen anything like it in the Wall Street Journal?
Secondly, it draws attention to the fact that many coming over are bad guys:
"…Officials said they have caught more than 53,000 people with criminal records—including about 9,000 felony offenders—since September, when a new computerized system was started to allow agents to quickly check a migrant's background against the FBI's database… That night, in this 40-mile stretch of border alone, 229 people were caught and taken to the processing trailer. Two hundred were later returned to Mexico and nine were held because they had criminal records"
(From this and other evidence in the story the proportion of bad guys seems about 5 %.)
Thirdly, the story acknowledges that apprehension works, at one point saying—
"U.S. officials made 1.1 million apprehensions along the border last year, a 24 percent increase over the year before…But experts in both countries estimate that perhaps 500,000 or more still make it through each year."
And at another—
"Agents estimated that for every immigrant they catch, at least one or two more make it through."
Either of which sounds like a success rate high enough to encourage further efforts.
Of course, the story has the usual tear-jerking component. It sentimentalizes over
"new…travelers, their backpacks filled with tortillas and toilet paper, their heads filled with dreams of America…."
…and quotes people who don't want to deal with the problem, notably the appalling Sen. John Cornyn (Defeatist-TX) chairman of the Senate Judiciary immigration sub-committee:
"I don't believe you can build a wall high enough or wide enough to keep out people who have no hope or opportunity where they live."
But my main reaction about this story: how much Big Media is being eclipsed by the Internet. Not so many years ago, this story probably wouldn't have happened (think LA Times). The wise quotation from James Gilchrist's Minuteman Project web site
"According to the group's Web site, the United States is being 'devoured and plundered by the menace of tens of millions of invading illegal aliens.' Unless illegal immigration is curbed, it warns, 'Future generations will inherit a tangle of rancorous, unassimilated, squabbling cultures.'
could have been dodged. The scurvy trick of not actually naming the Minuteman site would have worked (No cigar, boys – 12 year olds know to Google on James Gilchrist illegal immigration).
But now those who follow this issue seriously are aware that the Post is still behind the news.
Minutemen Project volunteers are not vigilantes. They're "undocumented Border Patrol agents."