Yesterday, around the same time Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) announced that the state of Arizona is countersuing the federal government due to its “failure to protect Arizona from invasion,” amongst other things, a state senate panel approved a bill to let the governor start taking donations to build a border fence. The East Valley Tribune reports:
The proposal by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, allows for construction of a new barrier on private property, with the consent of the landowners. Estimates are that would cover about a third of the approximately 370 mile long border, with the balance either on the Tohono O’odham reservation or federal land. [...]
Smith said he has no firm idea of what it might cost to build a suitable fence. But he said that the costs to the state could be minimal if the state is able to get private donations.
Smith also suggested that it’s not incompetence that’s preventing the federal government from building a border wall. He suggests that the government is actually trying to protect the drug cartels’ lucrative drug trade. According to him, it’s a “little secret” that the feds “don’t want to shut the border and the flow of drugs that are coming in here because of how powerful and how wealthy these cartels are.”
If Brewer signs off on Smith’s proposal (which I’m assuming she will), it represents a pretty major contradiction to sue the federal government for failing to deliver on its duty to secure the border and protect Arizona from an “invasion” and then think it’s somehow constitutional to turn around and build a border wall on its own. For the sake of consistency, Republicans running the state of Arizona can’t have it both ways. In legal terms, the Supreme Court has held that “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” And in practical terms the Department of Homeland Security has prioritized border security initiatives that have proven to be far more effective than constructing a costly border wall.
The government has shifted its focus away from expanding the border wall because it’s expensive and inefficient. According to a 2009 GAO report, so far, the U.S. has spent $2.4 billion since 2005 to erect the unfinished 600 miles of new fence along the US-Mexico border. It’ll cost $6.5 billion to maintain over the next 20 years because rather than preventing people from crossing into the U.S. because some border crossers simply seek a way to go over, under, or through it. The border wall has also pushed most border crossers to more remote and dangerous areas which makes the human smuggling business even more lucrative.
Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear the border has put a huge dent in drug smuggling or illegal immigration. “The existing border fortifications do not keep undocumented migrants out of the US. Not even half are being apprehended on any given trip to the border, and of those who are apprehended, the success rate on the second or third try is upwards of 95 percent,” stated Wayne Cornelius, director emeritus of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California in San Diego. “There is no reason to believe that additional investments in the fence project – both physical fencing and the new “virtual fence” – will create an effective deterrent.”