Stratfor has a new article yesterday that weighed in on the “Tactical Implications of a Border Fence” (click through to the link). The author, Fred Burton, argues that plans for a partial border fence would simply lead to a redirection of the flow to unfenced areas and would escalate the tactics employed by coyotes trying to smuggle people across the border.
I agree with Burton that a fence would not solve all of the problems related to illegal immigration and smuggling. But by making it harder, it would increase the costs of entry and deter the “casual” illegal crossers who make up a large percentage of the current flow. That would allow the Border Patrol to concentrate on rooting out the bad guys, instead of spending most of their time tracking and detaining decent people who are simply coming to the U.S. to make an honest living (and who presumably could enter in the near future via a temporary worker program). In that sense, I think a border fence is a good investment.
Also, I’m not sure about Burton’s contention that a partial fence would simply lead to a redirected flow of people. Many of the areas that would be left unfenced are very remote today, and illegal immigrants’ ability to reach them is limited by the lack of roads on the Mexican side of the border. Thus the current proposals for limited fencing. (The Rio Grande river is also a factor, to the extent it serves as a natural barrier along parts of the border). However, if new entry routes emerged, then it would make sense to expand the length of the fence.