Arizona seeks online donations to build border fence

By Paul Davenport

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, May 8 2011 8:49 p.m. MDT

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.

Brewer signed the Arizona fence bill on April 28, and it will take effect with most other new state laws on July 20.

It took the bill about 2½ months to land on her desk, easily winning approval on party-line votes during a legislative session dominated by budget-balancing work

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.

"My constituents want this thing fixed and fixed once and for all, and we're going to do it," Republican Sen. Al Melvin of Tucson said during a February committee hearing. "People should not be dying in the desert."

Democrats questioned the project's feasibility and called it a feel-good distraction from pressing for more comprehensive action on border and immigration issues.

"If we are here to pass symbolic legislation and not really address border security, SB1406 does the job. But people don't benefit from symbolic legislation," Democratic Rep. Catherine Miranda of Phoenix said April 18 House vote.

Under the bill, the border fencing work could be done either in conjunction with other border states or by Arizona alone.

Smith said the committee will consider where to build the fence and what kind of fence is needed.

But the eventual choice could be like double- and triple-fence barriers already installed along the border in Yuma County in southwestern Arizona because they appear to block crossings, he said.

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.

Individual ranchers likely will cooperate with the state fencing project, just as they have done with federal officials on placing helipads, watering stations and communications equipment to help officers patrolling the border, an Arizona Cattle Growers Association official said.

However, the 1,100-member association didn't take a position on the fence bill, said Executive Director Patrick Bray.

"We certainly appreciate the efforts put into this legislation, however the funding is a huge question. It's an empty solution because we don't know where the money is going to come from."

Bray added: "We want to stay focused on the overall border security issue. At this point we are looking for a more comprehensive security approach rather than this pieces that might come to fruition."

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