BORDER WALL WOULD BE A DAUNTING TASK
Lone Star State has 1,254 miles of border – but only 100 miles of fence
Texas has a 1,254-mile border with Mexico and about 100 miles of wall. Republican presidential candidates insist they’ll complete it.
Brownsville, Texas» Close to the southern tip of Texas, a border wall suddenly ends. Its final post sits in a dry cornfield half a mile from the nearest bend in the Rio Grande river, the actual border with Mexico.
It would be easy to walk around it. Tires left by the border patrol rest nearby. Agents drag them behind trucks to smooth the cracked earth and check for footprints.
Unlike other famous barriers in history such as the Berlin Wall or the Great Wall of China, the U.S. version is not much of a wall. What exists in Texas are fragmented series of fencing, composed of enormous steel bars embedded in concrete close together. The rust-colored thick bars that must reach a height of 18 feet loom over the landscape, forming teeth-like slats that split farmland, slice through backyards, and sever parks and nature preserves.
There are miles of gaps between segments and openings in the fence itself. As a result of the Secure Fence Act passed in 2006, the government built some 650 miles of wall along the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico boundary. While 1,254 miles of that border is in Texas, the state has only some 100 miles of wall.
Republican presidential candidates insist they’ll finish it. But completing the Texas part of the wall would be a daunting task thanks to the border’s sheer length, the fact
that it sits in the center of the snaking Rio Grande, and because treaties with Mexico prevent either country from constructing within the river’s flood plain. And unlike in other Southwestern states, most border land in Texas is privately owned.
Finishing some 1,300 miles of border fencing also would be costly.
According to a 2009 government accountability report, pedestrian fencing, meant to keep out smugglers and migrants crossing on foot, has run from $400,000 to $15.1 million per mile, averaging $3.9 million.
More recent construction has been even more expensive, with segments constructed in 2008 costing $6.5 million per mile. If kept at this rate, the wall would cost nearly $10 billion to complete just for materials, and challenging geography could bring it much higher.
“With every twist and turn of the Rio Grande and every steep terrain in Arizona, it would cost easily that much,” said Adam Isacson, a border expert for the Washington Office on Latin America.
Officials overseeing the wall’s construction faced a legal and logistical nightmare from the start, according to e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and litigation by Denise Gilman, a law professor at the University of Texas.
The hundreds of e-mails, which Gilman shared with The Associated Press, show that from the planning phase some 65 miles of the proposed route sat a half mile to a mile from the border, making it not a true border wall.
Officials struggled to find places where construction could start fast to meet Congress’ deadline of building 255 miles by December 2008. They sought contingency fencing that did not require “significant real estate acquisitions” or cut through sensitive wilderness, the e-mails show. Wealthy landowners demanded more compensation or refused to allow construction.
Hundreds of property owners were sued just to build the existing chunks of wall.
Some 400 relinquished properties ranging in size from a driveway to commercial lots and farms, costing the government at least $15 million, according to an AP review of land cases in 2012.