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Editorial: Ineffective? Hardly.

Published: January 11, 2019

THE HAND-WRINGING and political posturing may be worse this time around, but the debate over securing our southern border has been going on for decades. The difference this time is that the controversy over ending illegal immigration has changed from one in which Democrats and Republicans agree that it should be done but disagree about the details, to one between a president who has made specific proposals to control the border and political leaders on the other side who have dropped even the pretense of being in favor of making any changes. So determined are Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to stop President Trump from building his border wall, theyíve even resorted to calling it ďineffective.Ē Come again?

Trumpís initial proposal to build a 30-foot concrete barrier along the entire border with Mexico may have been overkill, especially in places with inaccessible terrain, but one thing about it is not in doubt: It will work.

Not all by itself, of course. You canít just build it and then walk away. If itís ever constructed, the wall will have to be patrolled and monitored and repaired. It also wonít be perfect. Every year, a few people will figure out ways to go over it or tunnel under it. But Trumpís wall will definitely end the era of mass illegal immigration from the south.

To understand why, all you have to do is visit the colossal fence thatís along the border in a few places today ó and visiting it is easy to do. As we have noted before, if you make your way south on I-5, take the last exit before the border, and head west, after a drive of only a mile or so and a scenic hike through coastal scrublands, youíll come to Border Field State Park, which occupies the very southwestern corner of the United States and has spectacular ocean views, offers great birdwatching, and even comes with picnic tables and restrooms.

Itís also rarely visited, which means that itís possible to have hundreds of acres of open space and miles of a wide, pristine beach all to yourself.

All to yourself except, of course, for the border patrol agents keeping a constant lookout from SUVs. And the helicopters buzzing just offshore searching for drug smugglers in boats. And the TV cameras monitoring the border from every angle. And the constant hum of activity in the crowded city of Tijuana, just on the other side of a very tall, very intimidating and impenetrable double border fence that wouldnít look out of place at Fort Knox.

Once in a while, you may even see an immigrant being apprehended after trying to swim around the end of the fence. But what you wonít see is anybody trying to go through it or over it. Doing that would be extremely difficult, and anybody who tried would be immediately apprehended.

The scene is very different from what prevailed until 30 years ago, when the first fences went up in many parts of the San Diego border sector. Before that, crowds would gather just on the other side nearly every afternoon, wait for darkness to fall, and then simply walk across the border. A few would be apprehended, but most would make it easily to El Norte.

In the mid-1980s, our southern border was, to some, a symbol of international friendship, while others saw it as a dangerous farce. Indeed, for decades, it was effectively open to anyone who was willing to give it a try. No coyotes necessary.

According to border patrol statistics, along the 13-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border closest to the Pacific Ocean, 628,370 people were arrested for crossing illegally in 1986, which was the peak year. Obviously, several million more crossed without being caught.

Ten years later, the numbers were still a national embarrassment: 524,231 were arrested on the same section of the border in 1995.

But by this time, the nation had finally begun to wake up to the massive phenomenon illegal immigration had become. Operation Gatekeeper, launched in 1996, included construction of modern fences along some of the borderís most heavily trafficked segments.

By 2005, the number of illegals arrested along the border near San Diego had fallen dramatically, to 126,904. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks led to even more hardening of the border. In 2009, the final segment of the modern border fence separating Tijuana from San Diego was completed. And, according to the border patrol, in 2010, 68,565 illegal immigrants were arrested in the San Diego sector ó still a very significant number, but a huge decline from the peak. And it happened because of the fence.

Was building the fence along the border with Tijuana a good idea? That depends on your point of view. But whether you love it or hate it, donít believe the politicians who say a border wall wonít work, because it will.