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What's the Border Fence Good for? Subsidizing Mexican Scrap Metal Entrepreneurs

It was obvious from the very beginning that Bush’s push for a border fence was nothing more than a political show to boost Republicans' creds with their base.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a depressing audit of the US-Mexico border fence we’ve been trying to put up for the past three years. The report caused about 8 hours of pretend outrage and was promptly forgotten. It found that we’d already shoveled $2.4 billion to half-seal 600 miles of the border since 2005 (we still have about 100 to 200 miles to go) and we would need to spend an additional $6.5 billion over the next 20 years just plugging up holes punched in the fencing.

The Christian Science Monitor:

So far, it has been breached 3,363 times, requiring $1,300 for the average repair. . . . Despite the price tag of maintaining the border fence, authorities have not found a way to determine whether it is helping to halt illegal immigration, the GAO report says.

The only semi-relevant stats we got are the number of illegal border border-crossers being caught by the US Border Patrol, which has dropped by 25 percent in recent times. But that doesn’t tell us much. “No one knows whether the decrease in crossers is due to the recession keeping people home, the thousands of new border patrol agents or the more than 600 miles of new border fence that has been built,” says NPR.

There is one thing we can be sure of: the massive steel pylons have been a boon for Mexican scrap metal entrepreneurs, who are able to supplement their incomes by dragging off whole sections of the fence right under the nose of our beefed up Border Patrol.

Bush’s Secure Fence Act of 2006 mandated that the Department of Homeland Security had 1.5 years to create a physical border fence bolstered by surveillance technology. But it was obvious from the very beginning that Bush’s push for a border fence was nothing more than a political show—there was not enough time and not enough money—to boost Bush’s and Republicans' creds with their base. Besides, the real Republican base–Bush’s corporate sponsors, “the haves and the have mores”–were the ones who benefited most from all that cheap illegal-immigrant labor, so naturally it was bound to be a half-assed effort intended to quell the Tea Party suckers who believe the Republicans. The building contractors were the only ones who stood to gain from the massive, wasteful show of Republican fake-patriotism. A show that’s still costing us billions.

I was down on the Arizona-Mexico border about six months ago doing a story on a McGyver-style vigilante group called the American Border Patrol and saw the total clusterfuck that is our border fence up close and personal.

One day I was ATVing along a freshly built stretch of the fence on the Arizona border, when I ran into a bored, young US Border Patrol agent. He seemed skeptical about the wall doing much good. The wall wouldn’t make much of a difference, he told me. “They” always figure out a way to get through—or over, in this case. Burros carrying bales of drugs on their back simply throw a rope up over the two-storey barrier, snagging it with some sort of hook on one of the fence’s steel beams and scuttle up and over.

The amazing thing is that they’ve managed to get cars over it, too. According to the agent, Mexican smugglers rig trucks with collapsible ramps similar to those used at old-school airports for boarding planes. They would have two trucks drive up to the fence—one on each side of the border—line them up and have their hombres drive right over. Apparently, a whole caravan of cars and pickup trucks could cross that way in a matter of minutes. When they were done, the ramps would be folded up and concealed, and the operator would drive peacefully home.

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