Border Fact Check

Separating Rhetoric from Reality

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A budget-busting proposal in the Republican platform

"The double-layered fencing on the border that was enacted by Congress in 2006, but never completed, must finally be built."

The Republican Party’s 2012 platform, according to language obtained by Politico.com.

The Facts:

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 (PDF) called on the Homeland Security Department to “provide for at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras and sensors” in four segments comprising at least 700 miles of the 1,969-mile U.S.-Mexico border. These segments, when mapped out, look like this:


Click to enlarge

The bill cited by the Republican platform calls for these 700-plus miles to be double-layer fencing, like what we saw in San Diego late last year:

The platform is correct that, though hundreds of miles of fencing have been built, these four segments have not been completed, and almost none of what was built is double-layer fencing.

What the platform neglects to note is the extremely high cost of complying with the Secure Fence Act mandate, which is the main reason why it was not fulfilled.

In 2009 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (PDF) sought to calculate the cost in 2007 and 2008 of building 140 miles of new “pedestrian fencing” — a single-layer fence built to keep out people on foot. It came up with an average of US$3.9 million per mile. Existing secondary fencing, the GAO reported, cost about US$2 million more to build.

At US$5.9 million per mile, then, heeding the Republican platform’s call to comply with the 2006 mandate would cost over US$4.1 billion — more than the Border Patrol’s entire annual budget (US$3.55 billion - PDF). Since fencing is most lacking in areas of particularly difficult terrain, the actual price tag could be higher.

In a time of severe budget austerity, does the Republican platform really propose such an astronomical expense?

P.S. Of particular interest is Texas, which even today has very little fencing, much less double fencing. Compare this Border Patrol map of current fencing (source - PDF) to the 2006 Secure Fence Act plan above.


Click to enlarge

To build a fence along the entire meandering length of the Rio Grande would take a stunning “10 to 15 years and US$30 billion.” The source of that estimate is a leading Republican: Texas Governor Rick Perry.

By Adam Isacson

Filed under Border Security Fencing

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