Tom Tancredo's Wall

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Tom Tancredo's Wall

The Colorado Congressman Tries to Make America the World's Biggest Gated community

Newspaper editorial

By: Tom Tancredo

Date: December 29, 2005

Source: Opinion Journal. "Tom Tancredo's Wall: The Colorado Congressman Tries to Make America the World's Biggest Gated Community." December 29, 2005. 〈〉 (accessed July 26, 2006).

About the Author: Thomas Gerard "Tom" Tancredo is a Republican politician who has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1999 and represents the 6th Congressional District of Colorado. He is a leading figure in the Republican campaign for tighter immigration controls and is chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus.


The proposals for a barrier along the southern border of the United States, referred to in Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo's speech of December 2005, were those contained in the Republican Bill on immigration reform that was passed by the House of Representatives that month. The Bill proposed tough measures to strengthen the border and to tackle the problem of illegal migration to the United States, particularly from Mexico. It has been estimated that more than four-fifths of recent Mexican immigrants to the United States are undocumented migrants and that more than half of all undocumented immigrants in the United States are from Mexico.

U.S. governments have progressively been tightening the border controls since the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986. Under the provisions of IRCA, the number of border control agents were increased, advanced surveillance technology was introduced in the border region, and high security fences were erected in some areas known to be commonly used to gain entry to the United States. Over the following years, there were a number of major initiatives that stepped up border control patrols in specific high-risk areas and were intended to deter potential illegal migrants. These included "Operation Hold the Line" in the El Paso, Texas, area in 1993 and Operation Gatekeeper in the San Diego region the following year. Although these specific initiatives were reported to have had immediate effects in reducing numbers of apprehensions, overall levels of undocumented entry from Mexico have continued to increase. The impact of building security fences in specific areas has apparently been to redistribute entries to other parts of the border and to increase the use of agents to facilitate entry. There is little evidence that the measures have had much of a deterrent effect on potential migrants.

It is often argued that the tightening of the U.S. border with Mexico has been ineffective in reducing illegal immigration to the United States because the border control measures have not been accompanied by effective application of the laws against the employment of undocumented immigrants. IRCA had introduced legal sanctions against employers who knowingly hired unauthorized migrants, but these had not been effectively enforced by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), partly due to limited staffing and budgets in their workplace enforcement wing. As long as employers continue to offer jobs to low-cost illegal migrants, they will continue to find ways of entering the country. One reported effect of tightening the border without reducing employment opportunities was that undocumented migrants started to settle for longer periods in the United States, rather than traveling between the United States and Mexico to meet the demands for seasonal labor.

The Republican Bill of December 2005 proposed hard-line measures that were intended to tackle undocumented migration more effectively. These measures included building a 700-mile long two-layer security fence along the border, increasing the number of border control agents, and making it a felony to enter or settle in the United States illegally or to assist anyone else to do so, for example, by employing them. The Bill made no provision for a guest worker scheme or for any legal route to settlement for the estimated 11.5 million undocumented migrants already living and working in the country, who could be subject to deportation.


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The Republican Bill met with much protest from Democrats, some Republicans, the business community, and pro-immigrant groups. It was argued that the proposed measures for dealing with undocumented migration were too harsh, that it did not take into account the economy's need for migrant labor, and that it was impractical in making no allowance for a legal route to settlement for the millions of unauthorized migrants already in the country. Demonstrations against the Bill were held across the nation during the following months.

In May 2005, the Senate passed an alternative Democrat-led Immigration Reform Bill with cross-party support. While this proposed legislation also provided for building a high security fence along the border and increasing the number of border control agents, it did not propose to criminalize unauthorized migrants. It included provisions for a guest worker visa scheme and an agricultural worker temporary visa scheme, while also proposing giving illegal migrants who had been in the country for a minimum length of time the option to apply for legal settlement. By mid-2006, neither bill had yet been passed by both houses, a necessary prerequisite for becoming law. The issue of immigration reform looked likely to be a major factor influencing the outcome of the 2006 mid-term elections in November.



Cornelius, Wayne A. "Controlling 'unwanted' Immigration: Lessons from the United States, 1993–2004." Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 31 (4) (July 2005): 775-794.

Espenshade, Thomas J. "Unauthorized Immigration to the United States." Annual Review of Sociology 21 (1995): 195-216.

Web site

BBC News. "US Immigration Debate: Key Players." 〈〉 (accessed July 7, 2006).