- Days left
As my husband is training for the Border Patrol right now (the reason: steady job and good government benefits in a bad economy) and we'll be moving to West Texas at the end of the year, I took particular interest in this just-released report from the Government Accounting Office about the cost of border security. Its findings aren't just relevant to Border Patrol staff and their spouses, it should interest every taxpayer.

In a nutshell, it will cost $6.5 billion over the next 20 years to maintain the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, despite the fact that $2.4 billion has already been spent to build 633 miles of fence along the southwest border, there's no way to evaluate cost-wise whether the fence has helped to control the flow of illegal immigrants.

The GAO noted two big problems with the fence. One is that people are still getting over, under and through it. As of May 14, there have been 3,363 breaches in the fence, and each one costs around $1,300 to repair. That's $4.3 million in repairs. Another is that the new technology being installed to work on the border (sensors, radars and cameras) has either been delayed or doesn't work. (Aircraft maker Boeing has the contract for that and will be paid $1.1 billion for it). That means border agents still uses old equipment that breaks down. Until all that new technology is up and running, there's no way to know whether it works or whether it's cost effective.

However, the GAO stated that apprehensions along the southwest border, except around San Diego, were on the decline in 2006 and 2007, before the fencing was started. In Tuscon, the rate of illegal aliens getting across the border declined by 16%. In Yuma, it dropped by 72%. That could be chalked up to people not trying to cross because there were fewer jobs to find in a slumping economy, but the Border Patrol stated that more help from the National Guard and less "catch and release" arrests also helped out.

So the underlying message here: Is a pricey fence really the best method for keeping illegal immigration under control?

Regardless of your opinions about illegal aliens and immigration policy, you should give a thought to whether $6.5 billion to patch up fencing that will probably be ripped open again is the best way to go. With U.S. schools, transportation systems and job markets going down the tubes, couldn't that money be better spent on people living on this side of the border?

Growing up in California's Central Valley in the 1980s, I remember when there was no fence -- farmworkers came up for the growing seasons, did their work in the fields, got paid, then went back home to resume their lives with their families. When Border Patrol efforts were boosted and a "invisible fence" was established, they either had to stay or go. Because the jobs were here, they decided to stay -- and many had their families come up too, as there was no more easy going back and forth. That's been a suck on many states' social welfare programs. But when it comes to earning a living and feeding your kids, a wire fence is just a minor obstacle to get past -- literally.

President Obama has said he has to handle healthcare reform before he tackles immigration, but his Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, said this week that groundwork is already being laid out for an immigration reform bill. So this GAO report is being scrutinized carefully by the Obama Administration, and it will be interesting what Obama will say about the fence when he finally addresses immigration. Probably not "Tear down this wall," as he said earlier this year he will continue to fund its construction, 700 miles in total. But when it costs us $3.9 million per mile to build, and that money goes straight to Boeing and its subcontractors, it just makes you wonder whether that's a good investment, especially in a slumping economy -- which seems to be doing a better job in keeping illegal immigration down than any kind of fence.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Getting out of debt

Everyone hates debt. Get out of it.

View Course »

Advice for Recent College Grads

Prepare yourself for the "real world".

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

Video: Tax Guidelines About Gifting

Note: Some of the content of this video applies only to taxes prepared prior to 2012. It is included here for reference only. Find out the tax guidelines about gifting with help from TurboTax in this video on tax tips.

Video: What are Income Tax Rates?

Note: The content of this video applies only to taxes prepared for 2010. It is included here for reference only. Income tax rates change depending on both the amount of money you make and how you made it. Find out about income tax rates with help from TurboTax in this video on tax tips.

Video: How To Reduce Errors on Your Tax Return

Did you know that errors on your tax return can affect the amount of your tax bill and the amount of time it takes to get a refund? Fortunately, TurboTax helps you avoid errors AND be sure you're getting all the tax deductions and credits you deserve.

Does Your Company Need to File Form 1095-B?

A company is responsible for filing IRS Form 1095-B only if two conditions apply: It offers health coverage to its employees, and it is "self-insured." This means that the company itself pays its employees' medical bills, rather than an insurance company. A company that doesn't meet both conditions won't have to deal with Form 1095-B. Its employees might still receive a 1095-B, but from their insurer, not the employer.

Video: Who Qualifies for an Affordable Care Act Exemption (Obamacare)?

The Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. But, who qualifies for an Affordable Care Act exemption? Find out more about who qualifies for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act tax penalty, how to claim an exemption on your tax return and how the Affordable Care Act may affect your taxes with this video from TurboTax.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum