July 21st, 2011
Arizona Border Fence Too Tragic To Be Serious

I haven’t decided who’s more tragic, the people who thought-up and got to work on the plan to raise donations to build a fence along the border between Arizona and Mexico, or the people who have donated to the cause so far. And I mean tragic in a pitiful way, with a tinge of dark humor.

Think about it. The idea was started by politicians who looked angry when they talked about their fence during a press conference. According to the Associated Press it was a collection of state Senators and Representatives along with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the guy who chases undocumented workers, dresses his inmates in pink and has them sleep in tents. They all made the appropriate frown faces, looking serious when they laid the blame on what they were about to do on the federal government for not living up to it’s responsibility of guarding the border.

Then they announced their plan: collect donations from the outraged public to fill-in the gaps of the U.S.-Mexico border fence. As the New York Times reported, they set up a web site with a convenient donation button along with a disclaimer that says the money donated may or may not be tax deductible and that the generous patriots should consult a tax advisor for a definite answer on the matter. And that’s about all they seem to have done,  aside from approving legislation to make the thing official. But it’s enough information to think this thing through:

  • They don’t have a plan. They don’t know how or exactly where they’ll build it. They have some stretches of state owned land in mind, but nothing definite.
  • They say they’ll ask permission of the federal government to build parts of the fence on federal property.
  • They want to raise $50 million. At $40 thousand per-day, which is what they collected the first day, it’ll take them almost three and a half years to reach their goal.
  • The federal government has already built roughly 650 miles of fence along the 2000 mile border at a cost of $1 million to $3 million per mile. That leaves a 1350 mile gap. But the goal to raise $50 million will be enough to build only between 16 and 50 miles of fence, depending on the cost and whether or not they’ll go all-out and add a moat with alligators, as some nuts have suggested (As a point of clarification, the folks who brought this donation funded fence to life have not mentioned moats or gators, but because they haven’t mentioned much else in the way of design I’m including the possibility.).
  • In order to save money they say they’ll use prison inmates, although it wasn’t made clear if they’d be Arpaio’s dressed-in-pink prisoners.
  • They said they might add a counter to the web site, with an up-to-the-minute tally of the money donated. So apparently they haven’t even thought-through their site design, much less a fence plan.

You’ve heard the old joke that says that if you build a 10 foot high border fence someone will make an 11 foot ladder? That’s what this brings to mind. It’s hard for me to take this seriously. And it bothers me that the wing-nuts in Arizona didn’t bother to call the wing-nuts in Georgia to get their take on the situation.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that

Georgia restaurants are reporting labor shortages following the passage of the state’s tough new immigration enforcement law, a new survey by the Georgia Restaurant Association shows.
Nearly half of the 523 restaurateurs across the state who voluntarily participated in the electronic survey this month are having trouble finding workers, a summary of the survey results shows.
It occurs to me that this Arizona  fence idea isn’t going to help the Georgia restaurant situation. I’d be interested to know how many Georgian’s have given their hard earned cash to the Arizona fence plan.

But I will give them this: the fence donation idea is going to provide these politicians with a very good list of partisans and donors. It will also give them a few key minutes of free media time and a knee-jerk issue to get voters to the polls. But aside from that it’ll do little else.

It’s a lot like the “like” and “share” buttons on cause websites that make you feel as if you’ve done something constructive sitting in your easy chair. Some of the fence donations have been from $250 to $500, and that’s a pretty serious click of a donation button. But when you put it all together you wonder if it was a smart click, especially when you don’t know for sure if you’ll be able to deduct it from your taxes, or if there’s a real plan to spend your money.

This is either too tragic to be serious or too funny to be tragic; I’ve yet to make up my mind.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda

[Photo by ThreadedThoughts]

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