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Proposal: American Security Barrier
Concept rendering of Israeli Security FenceConcept rendering of Israeli Security Barrier

This is an idea that I first saw proposed at Parapundit: an Israeli-style security barrier along the U.S.A.'s southern border with Mexico. Steve Sailer [1] wrote an article about this as well. Such a security barrier would virtually eliminate illegal immigration to the U.S.A. and raise the stakes dramatically for traffickers in illegal aliens.

This feature is not intended as a discussion of the pros and cons of immigration, much less criminal immigration. See the Essays page for White Nationalism and Immigration (forthcoming). This feature treats as a given the idea put forward by sites like VDare and NGOs like FAIR that immigration, legal and criminal, constitutes a net tax burden on the American taxpayer:

Current levels of immigration are not beneficial to our countryís economy, its fiscal well-being, or the health of our labor market. In fact, immigration is a drain on the economy; the net annual cost of immigration has been estimated at between $67 and $87 billion a year. The National Academy of Sciences found that the net fiscal drain on American taxpayers is between $166 and $226 a year per native household. Even studies claiming some modest overall gain for the economy from immigration ($1 to $10 billion a year) have found that it is outweighed by the fiscal cost ($15 to $20 billion a year) to native taxpayers. In short, the average native taxpayer is paying for immigration so that large companies can profit by employing immigrants in low-wage positions.[2]

For the purposes of this feature, I will assume that the "modest overall gain" mentioned above is actually $10 billion per annum, and the "fiscal cost" is actually $15 billion per annum. Thus we arrive at a net cost of $5 billion per annum - the absolute best case scenario for immigration cheerleaders, other than taking their spurious reports at face value (as reported by the mass media [3]) of course.

Thus all the other extraneous arguments concerning mass open-borders immigration are done away with and we're faced with a simple dollars and cents question: would the material benefits of building a security barrier along our southern border outweigh the material costs, and if so, how long would it take to see those benefits?

Although the obvious model for such a barrier is the Israeli security barrier surrounding (and encroaching upon) Palestinian territory on the west bank of the Jordan river, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, many other countries are engaged in similar projects:

  • Saudi Arabia is building an $8 billion security barrier along its border with Yemen to block the entry of smugglers and al-Qaida operatives -- a fence that might eventually be extended to surround the entire country.

  • India plans a vast security fence to keep terrorists from crossing the Line of Control, the border between Indian and Pakistani-administered portions of the disputed state of Kashmir.

  • Botswana has erected electrified fences along its border with three other African nations to stop infiltration of refugees and hungry livestock.

  • The European Union is funding the construction of security fences in Spanish enclaves in Morocco to stem illegal immigration from Africa into Europe. [4]

The Israeli security barrier is far from a simple fence, it's a state-of-the-art barrier:

Concept rendering of Israeli Security Fence

                Concept rendering of Israeli Security Barrier

Each mile of barrier requires the excavation of 230,000 cubic yards of soil; the laying of 12,000 square yards of asphalt, and the installation of 80 sensor-detector posts, 600 anchor posts, 6,000 square yards of wire fencing, 26,000 yards of barbed wire, and truckloads of other material.

The project combines fences, ditches, patrol and "trace roads," concrete walls, barbed wire, watchtowers, cameras, electronic sensors, military checkpoints and gates where people and vehicles can pass.

Most of the barrier consists of a concrete foundation topped by 15 feet of wire mesh fence. Protecting the fence on the Palestinian side are rolls of barbed wire and a 12-foot-deep ditch to prevent vehicles from smashing through. A road allows Israeli tanks and armored personnel carries to patrol the fence line.

On the Israeli side, another paved patrol road abuts the fence. Alongside is a dirt "trace" road, topped with fine sand [and probably radioactive trace elements or the like for tracking - Svy] that would reveal intruders' footprints. Grooming vehicles comb the trace road's surface each morning and evening. Another barbed wire barrier runs along the trace road.[5]

Concept rendering of Israeli Security Fence

                      Concept rendering of Israeli Security Barrier

Estimates for the cost of Israel's security barrier vary widely, with a general trend toward upward revision over time. The following article from Cybercast News Service seems to present as balanced an estimate as any:

Including the Jerusalem section, Israel's security fence eventually will stretch some 700 kilometers (420 miles) from north to south at a cost of about $2 million per kilometer (.6 miles) or at least $1.4 billion total. The barrier is supposed to be finished in December 2005.[6]

The Israeli model includes a number of sections composed of concrete wall 10 meters high: such sections will most likely be unnecessary in an American security barrier, so it's possible that the average per-mile cost of an American barrier would be less than that of the Israeli barrier. On the other hand, the terrain which a contiguous security barrier along the U.S.A.'s entire southern border would be required to traverse would likely increase costs. While it is equally likely that such a contiguous security barrier would not be necessary and the roughest terrain would not need to be partitioned, for the purposes of this feature I've ignored the issue of terrain entirely and assumed a contiguous barrier in terms of cost.

At $2 million per kilometer, we arrive at a cost of $3.32 million per mile. Fencing the entire 1800 mile southern border of the U.S.A. at this cost would entail roughly $6 billion in construction expenditures. Maintenance would no doubt require additional annual outlays, but a quick comparison of these costs and the savings of an absolute minimum of $5 billion per annum to the American taxpayer shows that the barrier would pay for itself in less than two years.

Sources:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 01, 2004:
Controversial Israeli security barrier is 'engineering tour de force'

Cybercast News Service, June 16, 2004:
Israel Seeks 'Delicate Balance' of Jerusalem Arabs, Security Needs

Jewish Virtual Library:
Israelís Security Fence

Federation for American Immigration Reform:
Immigration and the Economy
The Estimated Cost of Illegal Immigration
National Academy of Sciences Immigration Study


Created July 9, 2004.