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The Wall 

Not a Pink Floyd song

In the Bible, after seven days' processions, the priests sounded their trumpets, the people shouted with a great noise and Joshua witnessed the walls of Jericho falling down flat.

In 1215, Mongol armies of Genghis Khan captured Beijing, despite the Great Wall. Four centuries later, the world's longest man-made structure was no impediment for the Manchus to conquer China. Estimations put the number at one million workers who died building the (now) touristic attraction, which totally lost its strategic value.

In 1586, Francis Drake, a pirate and explorer, sacked and pillaged Cartagena de Indias, despite the city's formidable walls.

German forces easily crossed the Maginot Line in 1940 after France expended 3 billion francs constructing forts and tunnels along the border with Germany.

On Aug. 13, 1961, communists began the erection of the Berlin Wall, but the infamous 96-mile barrier of concrete, with an average height of 11.8 feet, only survived until Nov. 9, 1989. The Cold War symbol was completely torn down by the end of 1990. A total of 192 persons were killed during its existence.

Just last Friday at Capitol Hill, the Senate approved the construction of a 700-mile wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. The building of the double-layered fencing will cost between $2 billion to $9 billion. The law commits economic resources for a virtual barrier of ground sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and surveillance equipment. An additional 1,500 agents will be hired by the Border Patrol, and 6,700 beds will be purchased for detention centers where "illegal" immigrants are housed and processed for deportation.

An almost 90-mile barrier already exists on the southern frontier and according to the Human Rights Coalition, "since border policies were implemented in the 1990s, it is estimated that over 3,000 migrants have lost their lives on the U.S./Mexico border." A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office pointed out that border-crossing deaths have doubled since 1995. Last year 472 people perished in their journey to the north.

I pray for no more immigrant fatalities in the deserts due to the new Act. Instead, I hope the construction of the new wall represents more investments for Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California. Those states have large Hispanic populations, which may benefit from the pouring of dollars. We may see bilingual Latino recruits at the Border Patrol Academy in Brunswick, Ga., or in the satellite facility in Charleston, S.C. The annual salaries of border patrol officers range from $25,000 to $50,000, plus bonuses and overtime. Hispanic firms may be contracted for the assembly of the fence. We expect the deal will not be awarded only to the Vice President's friends of Halliburton. As "Mr. I", Jorge Grosso's cartoon character published by Mi Gente expressed a couple weeks ago: "I do not want one wall, I want four walls."

Excluded from the bill was the fate of the 12 million undocumented immigrants and their 3 million U.S.-born children, who are American citizens.

The wall's final solution did not satisfy all legislators. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, said, "I think you need to have ways where people can apply legally to come to the United States and then go home. We need also to deal with the reality of the people who are already here in the U.S." Sen. Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, agrees: "Fences are a bumper-sticker solution to a real problem. We can pour billions of dollars into fences, but they won't address the complex challenges of illegal immigration without comprehensive reform."

Rafael Prieto Zartha is the editor of the Charlotte-based Spanish-language newspaper Mi Gente.

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