A project to build a fence along the Arizona and Mexico borders has been declared dead. The border fence was originally sanctioned by the Legislature in 2010. Initially, the hope was for the fence to stretch over 200 miles. However, with a price tag of $2.8 million per mile, the project came nowhere close to meeting that expectation.
Originally, the border fence was expected to eliminate any current openings along the border where smugglers and undocumented immigrants frequently took advantage. Even in areas where barriers are currently established, individuals find ways around them by digging tunnels or climbing over them. Lawmakers at the time considered this project to be a way for state leaders to take over where the federal government left off.
State lawmakers who advocated for the border fence were optimistic about raising funds because the resulting fence would be a tangible item that would allow contributors to see with their own eyes how their donations made an impact. However, some democratic leaders in the state considered the idea to be a disconnect from the real issues affecting immigration in Arizona.
Going into the initial stages of the project, lawmakers in Arizona were aware that the majority of the funds needed to finance the border fence would need to come from private donations. In 2011, a website was created in order to collect financial contributions from private donors. While the website was thought to be the best method to inspire large donations, the website lost its vigor after approximately six months following the launch.
In fact, the total amount funded for the project ended up at just $264,000. As you can see, this amount was far short of the $2.8 million needed to finance just one mile of the border fence. Many have deemed this to be quite the blunder and one could argue that it was doomed from the start, considering the effort initially began around the same time that Arizona's immigration conflict was at its peak.
News of the fence's demise came after the main financial backer had given up on the project and hoped instead to transfer that money to Arizona border sheriffs. Many assume that the funding will now go towards border security, however, Representative Steven Smith (R-Maricopa) has stated that “all options are still on the table.”
During the meeting that announced the end of the border fence construction, committee members stated that talks regarding how to allocate the rest of the money would be held at a separate meeting in December. The Arizona Legislature's border security advisory committee is comprised of state lawmakers, state department heads, and local sheriffs.
The legislature had high hopes for this border fence. However, it quickly lost steam. This seems to be yet another example of how the government is focused on all the wrong things. A lot of money was wasted during this process and it is unfortunate that many lawmakers have yet to understand that a fence is not a substitute for real immigration reform.