The San Francisco Chronicle took a solid, detailed look at the current border fence proposals in a story this past weekend:
A proposal to build a double set of steel walls with floodlights, surveillance cameras and motion detectors along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border heads to the Senate next month after winning overwhelming support in the House.
The wall would be intended to prevent illegal immigrants and potential terrorists from hiking across the southern border into the United States. It would run along five segments of the 1,952-mile border that now experience the most illegal crossings.
The plan already has roiled diplomatic relations with Mexico. Leaders in American border communities are saying it will damage local economies and the environment. And immigration experts say that — at a cost of at least $2.2 billion — the 700-mile wall would be an expensive boondoggle.
Back in early January I indicated my tentative acceptance of the idea of a border fence, subject to the simultaneous adoption of a guest worker program (or another program that promotes legal work in vital sectors) AND a clearer understanding that costs could be kept in the $2m-$3m/mile range. The statistics above are at the very high end of my cost comfort level, and worrisome given the overruns on the San Diego fence. Before making any funding commitments, Congress needs to get a better handle on the actual expected costs of any border fence: there have been too many numbers thrown around willy-nilly in this discussion in the past few months. Without a solid baseline cost assessment, taxpayer funds will be unnecessarily put at risk.
This paragraph was also interesting:
Among those hurt most by illegal immigration are members of the Tohono O’odham Indian tribe, whose desert land stretches along 70 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border. But tribal leaders don’t want their land to be fenced, as proposed under the Sensenbrenner bill, because that would prevent Indian people and wildlife from crossing the border as they are accustomed to. “We need the Border Patrol, but we have to balance that with respecting the sovereignty of our nation, our land and our people,” tribal Chairwoman Vivian Juan-Saunders said in an interview last year. “It’s a sensitive balancing act.”
These are very valid concerns by the Tohono O’odham, and there’s no easy answer to the question of what to do in this case of clashing sovereignties.