November 6, 2013

Effort to build Arizona border fence appears dead

The effort started in 2011 during the height of Arizona’s battle against illegal immigration.

By Bob Christie
The Associated Press

PHOENIX — A plan by Arizona lawmakers to build a symbolic mile of fencing along the border with Mexico using private money may be declared dead Wednesday, more than three years after border security proponents crafted the proposal.

The Arizona Legislature’s border security advisory committee will take up the issue when it meets for the first time in more than a year.

The main backer has given up on the state fencing plan and hopes to transfer the money to border sheriffs, said Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, the co-chair of the committee. Stevens said Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, realizes enough private money to get the job done can’t be raised.

“He wants to put it to use on the border, because it’s not enough to build a fence,” Stevens said Tuesday evening.

About $2.8 million is needed to build a mile of fencing, but only about 10 percent of that has been raised. Lawmakers at first wanted to build 200 miles of fencing.

The committee launched a website in July 2011 to collect private donations. The effort came during the height of Arizona’s battle against illegal immigration, before a backlash that left former Senate President Russell Pearce out of a job after a recall and the GOP-led Legislature with no more appetite for measures targeting immigration.

After the committee’s most recent meeting in August 2012, Smith said he hoped construction on the first mile could begin by late 2012.

The Legislature created the committee in 2010 and tasked it with making recommendations to the governor about how to handle the border. The fence project was one of its key goals. Members include Republican state lawmakers, county sheriffs and state department heads.

The lawmakers aren’t voting members, and Stevens said it is unclear if enough non-lawmakers will attend Wednesday to call a vote to end the fence plan and transfer the cash to the sheriffs for other border security measures.

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