18 seconds doesn't tell the whole border fence story


OK, OK – we’ve all seen it.  Two young ladies climbing a section of the border fence in 18 seconds.  I’m sure they rushed back to campus, uploaded their video to YouTube and hurried out to make Ladies Night with their sorority sisters, confident that they had struck a blow for human rights.  I’ll bet they even got an “A” from their Ethics professor on their project.  I have witnessed similar naivete and less-than-critical thinking from my 22-yr old daughter who is finishing her undergraduate studies in Art, of all things, at a state school here in Texas.

Having watched this video several times, there were some things that struck me:

These were two apparently very healthy young women.  They weren’t malnourished, overweight, or out-of-shape.

They weren’t accompanied by any babies, small children, or elderly people.

They weren’t carrying anything – no backpacks or bags with water, food, clothes or other provisions.  I’m guessing that they also weren’t carrying any narcotics or guns.

In the video, it appeared to be a beautiful day.  It wasn’t raining.  It wasn’t a bone-chillingly cold January night or brutally hot August day, as can be the case here in the desert southwest.

They simply climbed up one side of the fence – they didn’t struggle to maneuver their bodies over the top of the fence and down the other side – a much more formidable task.

And while the video doesn’t document what they did prior to climbing the fence, I strongly suspect that they didn’t walk tens of miles through the desert or spend several nights sleeping on the ground, prior to reaching the border.

Obviously, my point is that the task that these young ladies are demonstrating in their video is in no way indicative of what is typical when immigrants cross our southern border illegally.  This video is dangerous because it attempts to trivialize the discussion about the effectiveness of the border fence.

There are only two types of people who contend that a complete, well-constructed, well-maintained, continuously-monitored, modern fence won’t help reduce the amount of people crossing our borders illegally:

1.       The people that watch this video, take it at face value, put no critical thought into the issue, and conclude that a fence is a waste of money.  Useful idiots.

2.       The people who know how effective a proper fence will be and who, for whatever reason, do not wish to see a reduction in illegal immigration.

At the beginning of the video, the producer states that the cost of the border fence averages $4 million per mile and poses the question:  “Is it worth the expense”. 

There is broad disagreement on the costs of illegal immigration.  There are no agreed-upon set of assumptions and the numbers vary widely, depending upon who conducts the study and their underlying agenda.

Even so, any rational person would agree that the direct costs of illegal immigration are huge:

  • Homeland Security – US Border Patrol/ICE/ATF/DEA
  • Social services at the federal and state levels – Welfare/Unemployment/Food Stamps/CHIP/Medicare/Social Security/Medicaid/housing subsidies
  • Education costs at the federal and state levels for illegal immigrants and their children
  • Earned Income Credit for low-income tax filing illegal immigrants
  • Incarceration costs for illegal immigrants
  • State and local police costs associated with crimes committed by illegal immigrants

There are significant indirect costs as well:

  • Medical costs for uninsured illegal immigrants born by public and private hospitals resulting in increased costs to their insured patients
  • Increased automobile insurance costs to cover the large number of illegal immigrants driving uninsured motor vehicles
  • Artificially lower wages for US citizens driven down by large numbers of illegal immigrants

Clearly, many illegal immigrants do pay some taxes:

  • State sales taxes on purchases
  • Social Security and Medicare, if they produced forged documents to obtain W-2 status
  • Property taxes, if they own a home
  • State income taxes

To be intellectually honest, one must deduct from the costs that illegal immigrants generate, the amount that they contribute back into the system.  The challenge of accurately estimating all of these costs is daunting and anyone with an agenda can find a set of numbers to support their case.   Given my agenda – that of a secure border and a re-vamped immigration policy that includes a temporary worker program – I will use the July, 2010 study by FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform)


which states that illegal immigration costs US taxpayers $113 billion annually, at the federal, state and local levels.  This equates to a cost of $1,117 for each native-headed household in the United States.

Unfortunately, there are also some very real human costs associated with illegal immigration.  Each year, illegal immigrants are responsible for thousands of violent crimes in the United States, including assault, rape, child molestation, manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, and murder.  The federal government does not track crimes perpetrated by illegal immigrants, however deaths caused by illegal immigrants in the United States are estimated to be in the range of 2,000-4,000 annually.

Back to the fence-climbing video producer’s question:  Is the $4 million per mile worth the expense?

All things considered – YES!