Unless you've been dozing under a rock, you've heard by now about the proposal to build a double set of steel walls with floodlights, surveillance cameras & motion detectors along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border 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. And all of this for a mere estimated cost of, oh, around $2.2 billion.
Fencing already exists along 106 miles of the border, primarily near larger cities, including San Diego, El Paso & Nogales, Ariz. Mostly, it consists of welded panels of corrugated steel recycled from portable landing strips the Army used in Vietnam but some parts are just a few strands of barbed-wire tacked to wooden fence posts.
San Diego's 14-mile, 15-foot-high double fence, which has been under construction since 1996, is the model for the proposed border fence, but has repeatedly stalled out due to environmental concerns. Already nearly $39 million has been spent on the project, and Homeland Security has allocated $35 million more. So, if that $74 million would be enough to finish the job and the price is multiplied over the proposed 700 miles, the new fence could run nearly double the estimated $2.2 billion — and that's just for the Southern California segment!
But even as fencing with all county fence, border patrol manpower, & migrant surveillance technologies have increased steadily over the past decade or so, the number of people arrested trying to cross illegally seems to still be rapidly rising.
And worse yet, Mexico's human rights commission boldly announced earlier this year that (if the massive border fencing project were to be green-lighted) it plans to distribute 70,000 maps showing the least-covered crossing points, highways, rescue beacons & water tanks in the Arizona desert to help reduce the death toll among illegal border crossers. (Here's a kicker — the maps were designed by the Tucson, Ariz.-based rights group Humane Borders.) And this is on the heels of a comic-book-style booklet for migrants that was distributed by the Mexican government in early 2005 offering tips to stay safe while crossing illegally into the U.S.
So not only is the Mexican government not doing anything to discourage illegals from migrating into the U.S., but they're actually helping to promote it.
But let's look at this problem from another angle… Tourism.
According to statistics released by Mexico's Tourism Secretariat (Sectur), Mexico's economy showed an unprecedented surge in '04 and their tourism industry was expected to exceed $10 million in 2005, with 70% percent of visitors coming from the U.S. Mexico is home to the world's 7th-largest hotel industry. Add to that, the Mexican tourism industry attracted more than $2.29 billion in new investments last year, representing a 38.5% increase over the previous year's figures. And by the end of 2006, Mexico is projected to have attracted $9 billion in new tourism investments.
So it seems easy enough to see that the more fiscally responsible and progressive thing to do — rather than fencing off the U.S.-Mexican border — would be to simply engage in one last bout of empire building.
Yup, seize the country; divvy it up into a few more states; clean up the water; exploit the massive labor pool; tax the snot out of the tourism industry; and end the illegal immigration problem once & for all. Sound extreme? Maybe not so much. After all, do the math: We can spend more than $3 billion to build useless border fences or earn $9 billion in tourism investment income.
And this isn't even taking into account the vast income potential brought about with the recently completion of “La Entrada al Pacifico,” a massive commerce corridor between far west Texas' Presidio and Mexico's Pacific coast. After all, where do you think Dollar General (a.k.a. Wal-Mart, Jr.) is getting its inventory?
And just think about how dramatically land values would escalate when the SoCal elite started snapping up beachfront property in those new states… The profits from the real estate boom would be unimaginable — and the tax income could fund other vital infrastructure improvements in those new states.
So, what do ya think? Anyone else up for a land grab?