Little Progress in Fundraising Effort for Arizona Border Fence

Since July, when Arizona lawmakers began soliciting donations from the public to construct a border fence along the state’s entire border with Mexico, the effort has only raised enough money to construct about half a mile of fencing, The Associated Press recently reported.

The official Build the Border Fence website states that $189,994 has been collected from 3,990 donors, but state Senator Steve Smith, the Republican who conceived of the project, told the AP donations have reached about $255,000. According to Smith’s estimates for the project, it will cost about $34 million, or $426,000 per mile of fence.

Smith told the news source that regardless of whether a fence is actually constructed across the whole border, any construction at all will send a message to Washington, D.C., lawmakers that inaction on immigration reform is unacceptable.

Speaking of the federal government, Smith said, “In light of their doing nothing, I would hope they wouldn’t want to deter a state from protecting its own border.”

Smith told the AP construction will begin sometime in 2012, regardless of how much money has been raised.

Arizona became synonymous with strict immigration reform following the passage of its hard-line law, SB 1070, in 2010. However, Arizona voters recently recalled the principal author of that law, Republican State Senate President Russell Pearce.

The U.S. Department of Justice challenged SB 1070 in court, arguing that immigration law is a national issue and the domain of the federal government, and that some of SB 1070’s measures – such as granting police officers the power to ask for proof of citizenship during routine traffic stops – encouraged racial profiling and would infringe on U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights. After a court placed an injunction on several components of the law, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

The DOJ has filed legal challenges against several states that adopted laws similar to SB 1070, including Alabama, South Carolina and, most recently, Utah.