FEBRUARY 02, 2009
The final cost of building fence along the United States’ extremely vulnerable southern border is still pending but a new government report reveals the exorbitant tab so far—an average of nearly $4 million per mile.
While the figure may seem off the charts outrageous, it’s actually what U.S. taxpayers are dishing out to erect the congressionally-approved barrier along the busiest stretches of the 2,000-mile Mexican border. The project, known as Secure Border Initiative, began in late 2005 and aims reduce illegal immigration as well as drug smuggling.
A key component of the multi billion-dollar project, which also features an increase in border patrol agents and more sophisticated technology, is fencing along the most porous sections of the U.S.-Mexico border. The per mile costs vary considerably depending on the type of fencing, topography, materials, labor costs and the price of land acquisition.
Regardless of the expected variables, a report published by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reveals serious cost overruns. The 17-page publication says that the average cost of building the fence has so far been $3.9 million per mile, with figures ranging from $400,000 to $15.1 million a mile.
Lawmakers had estimated during immigration reform debates that the fence would cost about $2.2 million a mile and the Congressional Budget Office predicted it would be more like $3 million. No figure came close to the actual amount, however.
So far, Homeland Security has built 601 miles of primary fencing and vehicle barriers along the Mexican border at a cost of around $826 million. This constitutes a fraction of the $3.6 billion appropriated to the Secure Border Initiative in the last few years for what has turned out to be a grossly overpriced fence.
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