Two years ago Congress adopted a new law that was supposed to curb illegal immigration into the United States.

But the penalties the law imposes on employers who hire illegal aliens do nothing about the poverty and hunger that impel many people to come to this country even if it involves breaking the law. Indeed, the amnesty that was granted to illegal aliens who have lived in the U.S. since 1982 simply sends a signal that lawbreaking will sometimes be tolerated.The inadequacy of the new law, however, is no excuse for an even worse remedy being pushed this week by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

FAIR is suggesting that a $2 fee be charged each time someone enters the U.S. legally. The fee would finance the 55 miles of hard-to-climb fences, 12-foot walls, a 14-foot-wide ditch, electronic sensors, and concrete barriers that FAIR is proposing along the U.S. border with Mexico in an effort to hold off illegal aliens.

The trouble with the barriers, of course, is that even though they would be located in areas of the heaviest traffic of illegal immigration, Mexicans would simply start illegally crossing the border elsewhere along the 2,000-mile border. So why needlessly antagonize the government of Mexico? And why erect barriers that would invite unfair but inevitable comparisons with the Berlin Wall?

The most effect thing the U.S. could do to combat illegal immigration would be to help Mexico improve its economy. Meanwhile, let's not compound the problem with desperate suggestions that defy common sense.