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Antelope Valley Press July 23, 2005

Baca: Israel-style wall terror deterrent

By Dennis Anderson, Valley Press Editor

LANCASTER - The federal government could reduce the threat of terrorism in the United States by building a fence similar to the one Israel constructed to repel terrorists, Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy D. Baca said Friday.

"They have a big fence, and it works," Baca said. "The fences we have down on the border don't work."

Baca made his remarks as Los Angeles County law enforcement agencies with homeland security responsibility were assessing measures taken by British authorities during the wave of bombings that swept the London subway system in recent weeks.

Baca spoke Friday at a gathering of the Los Angeles County Lincoln Club, a group of politically active Republicans who underwrite activities that support limited government and free enterprise.

Baca added that he would support such a fence as a significant deterrent to terrorists attempting to cross the border through Mexico.

"Heck, yeah," he said. "What's wrong with that?"

The federal government, with the blame spread between Congress and President George W. Bush, lacks the political will to stop a tide of illegal immigration that clogs jails, ties up public resources and endangers the national security of the United States, Baca said.

"What we need is a national movement for a constitutional amendment on the security of the American border," the sheriff said. "We're not being prejudiced … we just want people to come here legally."

Baca related his own summary of the history of illegal immigration to the United States from Mexico within the last 25 years.

The swelling tide of illegal immigration, he said, was triggered when congressional leaders extended amnesty to refugees fleeing the civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the 1980s.

"We (the United States) got concerned with El Salvador and Nicaragua because we didn't want communist regimes down there," Baca said.

A refugee tide fleeing the civil wars of Central America accelerated the northward push of Mexican citizens fleeing poverty.

Now, he said, "the immigration problem is just totally out of control. The Congress and President Bush are not doing a good job on this, and I am a very big Bush supporter."

Baca said the tide of illegal immigrants is accepted and encouraged by employers and consumers because they provide cheap labor that keeps down the costs of goods and services. Where once migrants generally toiled in the crop-laden fields of California agriculture, they now have spread across the length and breadth of the United States, he said.

"We (Americans) depend on this cheap labor," Baca added. "They're now in the farms, in Wyoming and everywhere else. It's so big. It's a complete mess. So how do we contain it?"

The federal government, he said, has abandoned its responsibility to support the costs of allowing an open border. Jails and prisons, as well as other public institutions such as regional health care, swell with a tide of humanity who are in the country illegally.

A fair solution to regional, county and state governments would be for the federal government to reimburse them for the costs of servicing a population that arrived illegally, he said.

"They should pay and take this burden off our back, but they (the federal government) don't have the will," Baca said.

Within his responsibilities to assess homeland security issues, he said Israel, with its "anti-terror fence," offers a solution for border security.

As for Mexico, he remarked, the United States' southern neighbor has "a history of being up and down on doing the right thing, or not doing anything" with its own problems related to cross-border crime. But immediately after the 9-11 terror attacks, Mexico moved more aggressively than the United States to halt foreign travelers of Middle Eastern origin.

"Mexico cut off all foreign travel to their nation," he said. "Do you think we would?"

Counterterrorism analysts consistently point to the porous nature of the U.S. border with Mexico as a prime port of entry for terrorists.

The Israeli counter-terror "fence," according to the Web site Global Security.org, is part barbed wire, part electrified metal and part concrete wall - in some portions up to 25 feet high - with watch towers and sniper positions not unlike the Berlin Wall. Israel's frontier with the West Bank is more than 150 miles long.

The wall is not complete, but the Israeli government has stated its intent to complete it along the entire border area and has set aside $1.5 billion for the project.

Palestinians have staged continued protests since the beginning of the project in April 2002.


Copyright 2005, Antelope Valley Press