How Come We Can Have 40,000 miles Of Interstate, But Not 2,000 Miles Of Border Fence?

By Edwin S. Rubenstein, October 20, 2004, published on

More than three years after 9/11 U.S. borders are more porous than ever. About 3 million illegals are likely to enter this year...

This illegal tsunami is not inevitable. For example, over a 10-mile stretch of the border near San Diego, arrests of illegal immigrants have plummeted from about 25,000 per year three years ago to 3,000 per year today. Violent crimes have virtually come to a halt in that area, according to the San Diego PD.

The reason? The government built a fence. Or more precisely, a complex of two 16-foot high steel fences separated by a wide road.

It takes so much time to climb the first fence and cut through the second that apprehension is practically inevitable...

So why not fence off the entire border? This is what the project might cost:

  • The southern border is 1,951 miles long.
  • The 14-mile San Diego fence cost $25 million, or $1.7 million per mile.
  • The security fence Israel is building on the West Bank also costs about $1.7 million per mile.

Conclusion: At $1.7 million per mile, the entire U.S.-Mexican border could be sealed off for $3.3 billion dollars.

Juxtaposed to other infrastructure projects, this border fence seems downright puny. The Federal interstate highway system, for example, is about 46,000 miles long. A 1,951-mile border fence would certainly not be more difficult to build than the equivalent length of eight-lane highway. All told there are about 4 million miles of public streets and highways in the U.S.

And we could easily afford a fence. For perspective, remember that 3.3 billion dollars represents just:

  • 3.2 percent of the $104 billion spent on highway construction annually.
  • 0.7 percent of the defense budget for FY2004 ($452 billion).
  • 0.14 percent of the entire U.S. Federal budget for FY2004 ($2.3 trillion).

Federal funding may not even be necessary. The state of California has only 140 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border. Securing that state’s border with Mexico would thus cost about $238 million. Theoretically, California voters could pass an initiative ordering the fence.

California taxpayers would save millions in social service costs currently incurred on behalf of illegal immigrants — I estimated in 2003 that nearly one quarter of the state’s annual budget deficit, i.e. over $9 billion a year, stemmed directly from immigration.

...a dwindling supply of illegal workers would raise incomes for native Californians—and boost tax revenues.

The fence would quickly pay for itself.

What are we waiting for?

Read the complete article.