Thursday, April 3, 2008

Risks And Rewards(?) Of The U.S. – Mexico Border Fence

Background: President Bush signed a bill authorizing the construction of fencing along nearly 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill calls for at least two layers of reinforced fencing and other security measures. Where fencing is not practical, the other measures, including cameras, lighting, sensors and surveillance, may be employed.
NY Times reported today on Department Of Homeland Defense’s (DHS) use of its authority to circumvent environmental reviews so that the 700-mile border fence between U.S. and Mexico can be completed on time. Now, before we start (or continue) to judge DHS, remember that it is simply exercising its waiver authority granted it under the Real ID Act of 2005, section 102. This law gave DHS wide latitude to brush aside other laws, such as the Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act and the Antiquities Act, if they interfere with the building of the border fence:

Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1103 note) is amended to read as follows:
`(c) Waiver-
`(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.
`(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court, administrative agency, or other entity shall have jurisdiction--
`(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or
`(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision’.”
Risks Of The Border Fence
Risk of violating individual’s and state’s constitutional rights: The sweeping power granted to Mr. Chertoff to build the fence will trample on the 4th and the 10th amendments, rights against unreasonable seizures and power of the state, respectively. This is going to be an issue as some of the land in Texas that DHS requires to build its fence is located on private property.

Risk of providing false sense of security: Building a 700-mile long fence, in of itself, will not stem the tide of illegal immigrants coming into the U.S. It is simply economic of supply and demand. We have jobs that pay much higher rates than Mexico and they have workers who want to work. Studies have been done that confirms just that[i]. Moreover, the border is approximately 2,000-miles long, which leaves two-thirds of the border unfenced. Guess where desperate illegal immigrants will try to cross into the U.S. Right, where they think the security is the weakest.

Risk of more illegal immigrants dying during the border crossing: Now that most ideal places for attempted border crossing are going to be sealed off, people desperately trying to gain entry into the U.S. will now try to cross over inhospitable desert portion of New Mexico and Texas. The gangs that are responsible for taking the immigrants across the border do not care if these immigrants die along the way.

Risk of diverting funds from better deterrent measures: The total cost of the 700-mile fence, according to Congressional Research Services, ranges between $16.4 million to $70 million per mile, over the 25-year life cycle of the fence. This includes the total cost of monitoring, maintenance, and replacement, as needed over the 25-year period. So, for $11.5 billion to $49 billion over 25-years, we will have a false sense of security along one-third of the border. This fund could be better used to hire 10,000 border patrol agents that the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 calls for (Title V, Subtitle B, section 5202).

An average border patrol salary ranges from $40,494 to $61,000 per year, depending on the tenure. Using the average of $50,747 per person, the total cost of hiring 10,000 border patrol comes to $507 million a year. Over a 25-year period, this comes out to $12.7 billion. So, we could have hired 10,000 border patrol agents that could monitor the entire 2,000-mile border at about the same cost of the 700-mile fence.

Risk of illogical and unethical fencing: An interesting article from the Texas Observer notes that the border fence that is going up in Texas seems to have an aversion to golf courses or resorts. According to the story, the border fence, which is going through backyards or even through their house of private citizens, it bypasses a nearby golf course (River Bend Resort) and Sharyland Plantation, which is owned by the Hunts, a close friend of President Bush.

Rewards of the Border Fence
To everything there are two sides; not necessary even, but two sides. Here are the benefits of the 700-mile border fence, in my opinion:
  • Refocuses attention on the need for a stronger border security measure
  • Provides jobs to companies to build the fence: Boeing is the main contractor with DRS Technologies Inc., Kollsman Inc., L-3 Communications Inc., Perot Systems Corp., and a unit of Unisys Corp. helping out.
Things to think about
  • If we are concerned about terrorists entering the U.S., then why aren’t we putting fences up along our Canadian border?
  • Who is deciding the location of the U.S.-Mexican border fence? Is it Greg Giddens at SBI? Loren Flossman, person in charge of tactical infrastructure for SBI?
  • What does SBI (Secure Border Initiative project) really do?
  • Why is DHS paying $30 billion for SBI, when it should be using the money to hire border patrols?
  • why isn’t the $30 billion contract to Boeing a part of the cost of building the border fence[ii]?
  • Since the Congressional Oversight Committee in February 2007 noted that DHS had outsourced most of the oversight responsibility to Boeing, does this mean that it is Boeing that really has the sweeping authority to override laws to build the fence?
  • Will any of the subcontractors used by Boeing to build the fence use illegal aliens like the Golden State Fence Company?
  • Is Boeing acting as our border patrol? In reading Boeing’s project 28 briefing, it seems that way.
  • If DHS is really concerned about our safety, then why is their 2008 budget for port, rail and transit, bus and truck security is only $405 million, a fraction of the $30 billion contract to build border fences?
  • Is this a type of fencing and border security that we are paying for? (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Perhaps someone can make some sense out of the governmental logic.

Ed Kim
[i] Brettell and Hollifield 2000; Cornelius et al. 2004; Massey et al. 1993; Todaro's (1976)

[ii] (page 27, footnote 85)

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