05/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Two Toxic Ideas: Border Fence, Border Poison

Isn't it enough that this country built about 700 miles of fencing along a 2,000-mile border with Mexico -- the previous administration's stunt gesture toward "border control" that ranks up there with the TSA yanking grannies out of line at the airport to show that it's protecting us from hijackers, and discrimination suits?

That infuriating fence is both inadequate and excessive. It despoiled hundreds of square miles of precious habitat and endangered thousands of species of flora and fauna while likely doing precious little to stop illegal immigration, merely moving corridors to unfenced areas. (Funnily enough, what's slowed the northward flow most effectively is the crummy economy on this side of the border. Mexicans are actually going back to Mexico as work disappears here.)

Yet now this administration's Customs and Border Protection wants to Vietnamize the border. It wants to defoliate miles and miles of brush along the banks of the Rio Grande so that no one can hide in the canebrakes.

What -- has some government contractor taken out a patent on some new chemical -- Agent Naranja?

More than 30 years after that fabled last helicopter left Vietnam, and this is what ranks as a big idea? Thankfully, the idea's on hold at the moment, mostly, I gather, to mollify the Mexicans. Americans living along the border have already had their property despoiled; the border law passed by Congress allows the fence to be no respecter of environmental concerns or property rights, all in the name of that unassailable imperative, homeland security.

I hope that the Obama administration will come to its senses, both about potentially poisoning the banks and waters of a vital river, and about continuing the building of this ridiculous fence. Where is the Janet Napolitano who, as governor of Arizona, famously said: Show me a 50-foot-tall fence and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder? Has Homeland Security bamboozled her out of that?

You want to patrol the border and keep the habitat poison-free at the same time? I hear there are a lot of Americans out of work. Let's use some of that stimulus money and that human capital we keep hearing about, and invite more Americans to put on a Border Patrol uniform.

And maybe, instead of killing those invasive-species bushes by indiscriminate aerial spraying that kills a lot of other things too, we can hire people to go in there and do some selective gardening. And if we still can't persuade Americans to do the job, there's a labor hiring hall right across the border.