Chertoff Defends Border Fence On Private Land

The Department of Homeland Security, currently building real and virtual fences on the nation's southern border, won't give in to local lawsuits or complaints from landowners because protecting the nation is a larger responsibility than protecting a landowner's property, according to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

He told reporters Wednesday that the department is working with local landowners to settle the issue. Chertoff said he's "sympathetic" to their concerns, but he's not willing to give in, something he said previous administrations did, with the result that the border has become porous.

"Maybe this was a dream," he said, but "I thought there was a huge public demand for a fence. I'm willing to have a fair discussion, but I'm not willing to have an endless discussion."

Chertoff noted that he won't be cowed by lawsuits or insults from the local owners. He said that in the past, administrations were "worn down" by lawsuits and political pressure and ended up doing nothing. He added that the department has come up with a good mix of virtual and real fences but that urban areas need fences because those entering the nation illegally can cross the border and slip into U.S. cities too quickly to be caught.

By Paul Bedard