I started reading this book as part of my research for my next book, partly because the content would be useful to cite and partly because it was my biggest competition. I was pleased after finishing it for several reasons: First, it was clear that Dr Maril has had a considerable amount of first-hand experience working with Border Patrol and has culled a significant number of sources along the border; second, the author is even-handed in his critique of DHS and its component agencies, as well as his support for the safety of law enforcement officers, without any obvious bias or political agenda.
The book is titled The Fence, but it covers a wider variety of border-related issues that either directly or indirectly tie in to the border fence or the immigration debate. I was disappointed and not at all surprised to learn about the extent of Border Patrol inertia as an organization. After spending eight years as a female law enforcement agent in the military - not exactly a bastion of forward-thinking progress - I can unequivocally say I had it really good compared to female Border Patrol agents. Any agency that squashes every iota of dissent with retribution and initiative with reprimand is doomed to dysfunction. Fortunately, Maril manages to shine a light on the sacrifices made by Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officers trying to work within the confines of an archaic system.
Where Maril isn't even-handed - and deservedly so - is in his criticism of DHS for overspending, underplanning, and generally having its head up its behind when it comes to reality on the ground in the borderlands. Just his explanation and illustrations of the ways in which DHS has carelessly handed over hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to profit-maximizing contractors to build a fence that is completely unnecessary in some places will leave you in awe. And not in a good way.
My only critique is that some narrative sections about certain people he knows and interviews can be tedious, and the details concerning fence contracts, technology, and construction can get too much into the weeds for more casual readers. The book seems to be organized in a chronological fashion for the most part, then digresses, which can mess with the flow a bit.
However, this doesn't take away from the substance of The Fence, and the extensive evidence Maril puts forth to back up his assertions about the lack of true purpose and direction for the fence along several parts of its almost-700-mile length. If you're looking for a book that explores not just the history of border fence constructions and all the problems that have plagued it, along with related enforcement and immigration issues, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it for researchers and casual readers interested in learning more about these border security-related issues.