Illegal Aliens and the Border Fence
One of Democracy Now!’s featured headline stories yesterday centered on the Government Accountability Office audit which claims that the fence being built along the US Border with Mexico is years behind schedule and has run billions of dollars over initial cost projections. Auditors claim that the completed fence will cost an additional $6.5 billion in maintenance expenses, but more importantly, there will be “no mechanisms to gauge its actual impact.”
There are two points, then, to consider when it comes to the border fence:
1) Is it worth it? and
2) Will it work?
Naturally, Democracy Now!’s host Amy Goodman would emphatically answer “NO” to both questions. But would that be correct?
Let’s discuss the issue of cost first.
In the nearly bankrupt state of California, the cost of illegal immigration is staggering. So much of the state budget goes to services for illegal aliens, that officials are at a loss as to how to calculate it. When you add together the state’s spending on schools, prisons, welfare and health care, California spends about $5 billion per year on services for illegal aliens. In fact, the 19,000 illegal immigrants incarcerated in California cost the state nearly a billion dollars per year.
Since illegal immigrants work primarily “off the books,” sending a large percentage of their untaxed earnings abroad, the state experiences a double “hit” – it is denied tax revenue, and those untaxed dollars are no longer available to circulate within the local economy.
California, then, ends up spending nearly as much on illegal aliens in a year than it would cost to complete the entire border fence to keep them out.
The next question is one of efficacy. So, will it work?
The Border Patrol thinks so.
Agent Shaun Kuzia with the Yuma (Arizona) Sector Border Patrol says the fence and other strategies and technologies are worth every dime because you can’t put a price on public safety:
Since 2005, we’ve seen about a 95% decrease in cross-border activity, and we can attribute that success in part to the fence being built; but also with an increase in manpower, technology and improved roads; we’ve been able to attain that level of success.
Why not ask the Israelis? Their security fence has been remarkably successful in keeping out potential suicide bombers, who are much more determined than mere illegal immigrants. Even the Saudis (a vocal critic of Israel’s fence) have built a border fence of their own to keep out the Yemenis.
Is the fence worth it, then?
If it works (and it will), it will be cheap at twice the price.