Arizona lawmakers want more fence along the border with Mexico–whether the federal government thinks it’s necessary or not.
They’ve got a plan that could get a project started using online donations and prison labor. If they get enough money, all they would have to do is get cooperation from landowners and construction could begin as soon as this year.
Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed a bill that sets the state on a course that begins with launching a website to raise money for the work, said state Sen. Steve Smith, the bill’s sponsor.
“We’re going to build this site as fast as we can, and promote it, and market the heck out of it,” said Smith, a first-term Republican senator from Maricopa.
Part of the marketing pitch for donations could include providing certificates declaring that individual contributors “helped build the Arizona wall,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a really, really neat thing.”
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said federal officials declined to comment on the Arizona legislation.
Smith and other supporters of the border-fence legislation haven’t produced any cost estimates for the state project, saying only that the state should be able to do it far more inexpensively than the federal government.
That still could be put the state’s costs in the tens of millions of dollars–or more.
A 2009 report by Congress’ Government Accountability Office said costs of federal fencing work to keep out people on foot ranged from $400,000 to $15.1 million per mile, while costs for vehicle barriers ranged from $200,000 to $1.8 million. Costs varied by such things as types of fencing geography, land costs and labor expenses, the report said.
During committee hearings and floor debates, Republicans said the state has a legal and moral obligation to take action because the federal government hasn’t done enough to secure the border.
Any type of fence would require approval of landowners, but Smith said he expects that to be forthcoming from the state and private land owners, including ranchers who have complained of break-ins and other trouble associated with smugglers and illegal crossings.