Does Julie Myers Not Understand the Border Fence, or Did She Give Away the Administration’s Dishonest Game?
In a Hugh Hewitt interview transcribed at Radio Blogger (audio is also at the link) and appropriately entitled “How to undo the impact of a Presidential address in one easy lesson,” Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), either didn’t comprehend the President’s speech last night or gave aways its true lack of seriousness about tackling the illegal immigration problem.
First, here is what President Bush said:
At the same time, we are launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas. We will employ motion sensors infrared cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings. America has the best technology in the world and we will ensure that the Border Patrol has the technology they need to do their job and secure our border.
Notice the word “construct.” Though this is not the Pacific Ocean-to-Gulf of Mexico tangible barrier that the majority of Americans and the majority of the House clearly want, the President makes it sound like there is to be some form of physical barrier built in the key areas that need one, and at least some kind significant disruption to any kind of crossing attempt along every other inch of the border. When he says “secure the border,” it should mean that no one who isn’t authorized can get through, or at least can’t get through without herculean effort.
(Aside: Until very recently, I thought the need to parse presidential statements for hidden meanings ended 5 years and 4 months ago.)
Feel the ability of anyone to believe what we wanted to believe the President meant disapppear into the sunset with each passing word from Ms. Myers:
HH: It’s great to have you on. When the President said high tech fence, what was he talking about? How long will it be?
JM: Well, he is talking about, kind of thinking about a combination of surveillance and manpower and infrastructure, that the border patrol is seeking to do over a period of several years.
HH: But in terms of actual fencing fencing, how many miles are we talking about?
JM: Well, in terms of actual fencing, I think they’re still looking at kind of what makes most sense in terms of surveillance and manpower and actual infrastructure.
HH: Is he committed, though? Did you have a talk with him about extending, for example, the San Diego fence, which is 1,400 miles long (I believe Hewitt meant 14 miles.–Ed.), and the El Paso fence, which is many miles long, double, and sometimes triple barrier fencing? Is that on the table?
JM: I think certainly all options are on the table to be most effective in terms of fencing. I am actually more the interior enforcement person, so I have not been involved in any direct discussions regarding the specifics of the fence.
HH: So we’re still unclear of how far the administration is committed to actual fencing on the border? I mean, concrete, physical fencing?
JM: Well, certainly I’m not prepared to go further than what the President talked about tonight.
….. HH: So I’m back to the fencing conversation. If fencing is the best way to stop them at the border, why don’t we have a plan laid out for that?
JM: Well, you know, I don’t think we think that fencing is the best way to stop them on the border. I think the President’s called for…if you build a fence, they build a tunnel. We just saw that today. There was another tunnel destroyed, another, excuse me, another tunnel found over in the San Diego area. So you can’t…given the kind of the layout of our land, I believe it’s the President’s view, it’s the border patrol’s view, that a fence alone is not enough. We need a layered approach that includes surveillance, personnel, technology. We are working with the military to make sure we have the best technology. And some places, a fence may be very effective, but some places, it’s simply not.
HH: Assistant Secretary Myers, correct me if I’m wrong. I think you just walked the administration back from the fence.
JM: I…no, I said consistent with what the border patrol chief’s been telling me all along, he’s been telling me what he needs, the combination of all these things. You look at the particular location, the particular terrain, and you decide what’s most effective. You don’t want something people can scale in two minutes and then be in the desert, and then you just have put people on the other side of the fence.
….. HH: But people wanted the fence…and I’m a moderate on this. I get hammered by the deportation crowd every day. And it’s always about when are they going to be serious about the physical fencing that works? And I think it’s a fair interpretation of what you said, is that the administration really doesn’t believe in it.
JM: I think people want results, and the President wants results. I think what he did tonight is talk about where we are so far, and how he’s going to step it up and take it further with the National Guard.
HH: Ms. Myers, with all due respect, they don’t want that, they want a fence. But you’re telling me that the administration is not into the fence?
JM: I’m telling you I believe people want results. And when people see that we’re securing the border, I don’t think people will care how that’s being done. And it’s my understanding that the border patrol believes we need a combination of these things. In some places, fencing may be great. In other places, all you’ll get is a whole bunch of tunnels.
HH: One minute left. Is there anything specific you can tell us about fencing?
JM: You know, I think we’ve talked about how a layered approach on the fencing is a part of the President’s strategy. I will tell you that we’re doing a great job in interior enforcement, and really moving out some of the areas where I think we’ve been…not been as active as we could have been in the past.
HH: Well, I appreciate your coming on. I must be just candid with you. I think that’s disastrous, politically. I think that is a nightmare, both policy and political wise, because I thought the President had come down for the fence, but you’re saying it’s really a much subtler approach.
….. HH: (after thanking Myers for coming on the show) I’m just stunned.
The game I believe Ms. Myers gave away is that when the President said “high tech fence,” he really meant the same thing as the non-physical “virtual fence” idea that most serious critics have discredited as totally inadequate. In other words, barring convincing evidence to the contrary, nothing much has changed. Physical barriers to entry won’t be built. More bodies will be put on the border, but…. they will be only slightly less inadequately “guarding” the same porous border.
If I’m wrong, the President and/or Tony Snow had better say so, hopefully just after the news that Clueless “ICE Princess” Julie Myers has found a more appropriate line of work is announced. Otherwise, we’ve been played, bigtime.
UPDATE: Chez Diva wants to know why this woman is still employed. Me too.
UPDATE 2: Debbie Schlussel’s post today (thanks to Debbie for catching my new post) strenously criticizes Myers, but also points darts at Hewitt for his relatively narrow line of questioning and apparent lack of detailed knowledge of the other holes in our immigration enforcement efforts. His interview left Myers looking like a dunce on the fence issue, but stronger questions could have exposed her as the complete bumbling fool that she apparently is, based on Schlussel’s chronicle of Myers’ frequent missteps in her short time on the job.
- May 15 — Well, It Wasnâ€™t a TOTAL Disaster (See Updates 2 and 3: Or Was It?)
- May 15 — Two Illegal Immigration Topics President Bush Wonâ€™t Talk About Tonight
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