Monday, March 27, 2006

“Behind the Concrete Curtain”


Washington, March 27-
Members of the U.S. Senate are scheduled to take up the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control bill this week. The bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives in December, would—among other things—fund the construction of a “Concrete Curtain” to seal off about a third of the border between the U.S. and Mexico “It’s not as much wall as we want,” admitted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), but you have to start somewhere. We can finish it up later.”

House leaders have been studying security measures employed by the now-defunct Soviet Union, and have drawn upon the communist regime’s stratagems for a variety of techniques. Construction of a huge wall to seal off seven hundred miles of the U.S. border is the latest Soviet-era idea to draw support from House Republicans.

“Leave it to the Russians to screw up a good thing!” joked House leader Dennis Hastert. “We’re going to do it right. Can you imagine having something like the Iron Curtain in place and then letting people tear it down? What were they thinking of? I wish Winston Churchill was still around to officially bestow the ‘Concrete Curtain’ name on our project. He’d appreciate it.”

Republicans, who have long derided their opponents as “out of new ideas,” crowed over their latest triumph. “Gated communities, security compounds, bunker embassies, and now walled-off borders—we have a vision for America’s future!” said Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn).

Frist denied charges that the anti-immigrant measure was driven by racism, xenophobia, and paranoia.

“It’s primarily a security issue,” he said, “but it’s partly an economic issue as well. We have millions of educated white native-born English-speakers who are unable to get jobs as tomato pickers, lawn maintenance workers, hod carriers, sod layers, housekeepers, dishwashers, day laborers, and nannies because illegal immigrants are elbowing them aside.

“Hispanics are getting the opportunity to work in a genuine free market economy, without burdensome labor laws, minimum wage requirements, health and safety regulations, and other government red tape,” said Frist. “Why should they be a privileged class? This wall will give real Americans a chance for a change.”

Frist was forced to admit that not one of the estimated twelve million undocumented Hispanic workers currently in the U.S. has been charged with any connection to terrorist activity, but said, “There’s always a chance. What better way to spend billions of dollars than to guard against the possibility that somebody in the next million or two might want to do us harm?”

The bill has provoked an angry backlash in some portions of the country. Residents of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, New York, Michigan, and other states along the northern border have demanded that a parallel wall be built to prevent the influx of Canadians. “They talk funny,” said twelve-year-old Caroline Wenstadt. “Instead of saying ‘about’ the way we do, they pronounce it ‘aboat.’ And they’re always going ‘Eh?’”

“It’s only fair,” agreed Larry Marcum, a long distance truck driver. “If you’re going to wall out Hispanics, you ought to wall out Canadians as well. I see all these cars from Ontario clogging the interstates, headed to Florida for vacations. They cause traffic jams, take up motel beds and restaurant seats that U.S. citizens could be filling, and make lines at gas stations even longer. Plus everybody from Quebec speaks French. If they want to come here, make ‘em pass an English test first.”

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), who says he is concerned about a different kind of inconsistency, is preparing to offer an amendment to the bill, calling for the removal of the Statue of Liberty from New York harbor. The statue is inextricably linked with five lines from Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The New Colossus”:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

“Talk about a mixed message!” said Cornyn. “We all need to get on the same page here. The wall or the statue; one of them has to go.”
© Tony Russell, 2006

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