Not-so-great wall of Arizona

Q: What do you call a 700-mile fence along a 2,000-mile border? A: A waste of money.

There hasn’t been much for Congress to hang its hat on this year. With November elections quickly approaching, and politicians eager to appear that they’re actually working, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a bill was pounded through and signed by President Bush last week that authorizes constructing a fence along portions of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Illegal immigration is a legitimate concern, but this fence is a short-sighted and irresponsible approach to the problem. A host of groups have already voiced their opposition to the plan, including land managers, businesses, law enforcement officials, environmentalists and U.S. Border Patrol agents.

The double walled, 15 foot-high fence is slated to cost $6 billion but, if previous attempts are any indication, the final cost will be much higher. In the mid-1990s, a fence was built between Tijuana and San Diego, Calif., only 14 miles long, at a price of $14 million. Because of environmental concerns and legal obstacles, the price skyrocketed to $126 million. Additionally, the fence failed to stop immigrants from crossing the border and only sent them on more dangerous routes through the desert where many died. The government’s official count of those who died was 199 last year and 267 in 2005. The actual number is believed to be much higher.

The 700-mile fence spanning parts of Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico faces these same problems on a far larger scale. The geography of the region includes mountains, irrigation canals, deserts and rivers, a fact not accounted for in the bill.

Congress may hope this kind of legislation plays well in the minds of those apt to believe our country is being invaded from the south, but facts tell a different story. Over 40 percent of all illegal immigrants in this country are here on legally obtained, overstayed visas.

Congress cannot seriously believe that this fence will stop illegal immigration. Instead, this fence should be seen for what it is, the most expensive election year gimmick in history.