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Homeland Security Doesn’t Know if the Border Wall Works

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A new federal report released yesterday says the border wall is costing taxpayers $6.5 million a mile. The zinger is after all the lawsuits and the billions we’ve spent, the Department of Homeland Security still doesn’t know whether the border wall is keeping people from illegally entering the United States.As of June, 633 miles of fence had been built with 28 miles remaining.  It comes as no surprise to me that Homeland Security has no idea whether the fence is reducing the number of illegal crossers. They put the fence up without any hard numbers or data to prove that it would be effective where they built it in the first place. In fact, in many cases it was downright suspicious that they avoided building fence through country clubs and rich people’s properties as I detailed in my “Holes in the Wall” story last year. Now the U.S. General Accountability Office reports that while Border Patrol can report whether apprehensions are up or down in different areas of the border, they can’t determine whether the border wall has anything to do with it. According to Border Patrol’s own data, apprehension along the entire southwest border except San Diego had already declined between 2006-2007 before the majority of fencing was built. Less migrants are also crossing because of a slumping economy, according to the GAO.The only measure Customs and Border Patrol has for success on the border wall is the number of miles that have been built, said the GAO. In other words who cares if it doesn’t work and screws up border residents’ lives  and the environment just get it done because Congress says so!But wait apparently CBP has done some analysis to determine where fencing should be built and whether it is effective. Oh wait, no actually they just spoke with senior border patrol agents and they gave Washington D.C. officials their opinions on where the fence should be placed. Thanks guys.The GAO has a novel idea. What about  some statistical analyses to show whether a sector of the border even needs fencing. And if it has a fence already how about some hard data showing us whether it works? After all we’re paying $6.5 million a mile for it. And the U.S. government is seizing people’s properties and destroying national parks. DHS could at least show landowners some hard data as to why they’ve been pinpointed for destruction. All landowners have gotten from the U.S. government so far is “give us your land to build a border fence because we said so.”Also, while the border wall may be tall and ugly it is not invincible. The GAO reports that the wall has already been cut open 3,363 times and it costs taxpayers on an average of $1,300 a pop  to repair the damage. Really we all owe former Congressman Duncan Hunter a big thanks for this fine wall he helped build. It worked so well in his district (which is why apprehensions are going up in San Diego instead of down like the rest of the border, go figure) he just couldn’t wait to apply it to the rest of the southern border. It’d be a big joke if it didn’t cost taxpayers several billions of dollars and cause so much heartache for so many Americans living along the southern border.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.