Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Great Wall of the United States?

copyright Charleston Tea Party 2010
     To start with, let’s take a look at some of the numbers concerning the cost of the US/Mexico border fence.  Over 2 years, 2007 and 2008, 288 miles of border fencing were completed at a cost of roughly 3 million dollars per mile, that’s $550 a foot.  To put this price tag into perspective, that is the equivalent of paying $550,000 for a 1000 square foot home.  (And even then, the fence is measured in foot length, not square feet so this is a conservative comparison.)  The southern border is nearly 2000 miles long.  At $3 million per mile we would have a cost of $6 billion for construction alone.  This price is estimated to climb significantly higher because the cost of land acquisition from private landowners varies significantly and the terrain on which the fence must be constructed also varies significantly.  For example, the final ten miles of fencing that was approved for construction for the San Diego fence was done so at a total price tag of $35 million; that’s $10 million per mile.  This does not include maintenance costs nor does it include the costs of the manpower required to police the fence.  Every time the fence is breached, the US Army Corp of Engineers has estimated that it would cost about $1,500 to fix.   The fence has been breached nearly 5,000 times since we began construction in 2005.  First of all, that’s an average of more than 2 breaches a day (a breach is when the fence is damaged in a crossing attempt.  It does not include the number of times people successfully cross the fence without damaging it.) With this being said, the maintenance cost for breeches alone has added another $7.5 million to the cost of the fence and the fence is not even halfway done.   
     To see a video that demonstrates the ease in which the fence can be passed, watch this video and then decide for yourself if the idea of a fence is going to serve its intended purpose.  The two women in the video both reached the top of the fence in less than 20 seconds and a rope would significantly reduce this time.  Also, you will notice from this video, my cost estimates are quite conservative.  Many estimates are significantly higher; some of them reaching the $60 billion mark for construction alone.  That’s $5,681 per foot or according to the same calculation above, $5.68 million for that 1000 square foot house. 
     To make the idea of a fence even worse, there has been recent talk of a US/Canada border fence
This is getting out of control.  Aside from the monetary costs involved with these projects, there are other questions that come from these prospects of fencing ourselves in.  Is the current US society this overwhelmed by a fear-based mentality that something as ineffective as a border fence would be viewed as a rational solution to the problem of border security?  At the height of a national economic crisis in which fiscal liberalism is under extreme scrutiny by the Republican party, does it seem like an inconsistency in preference ordering for many of their affiliates to be in favor of an expensive yet ineffective initiative to combat illegal immigration?
     This is just the tip of the iceberg when thinking about the efficacy of a fence along the border.  Volumes could be written on all of the intricacies that surround this debate, unfortunately this is a blog post, not a novel. 

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