PHOENIX (AP) — Not a single fence post has been erected in the year since Arizona launched its own effort to build a border fence through private contributions.
The Arizona Capitol Times reports (http://bit.ly/5q8XKc) that fundraising for the project has almost completely dried up and that the $273,000 that has been raised so far is probably not enough to erect one mile of fencing.
A border security advisory committee of the Arizona Legislature hasn't yet gotten the materials it needs to build any fencing and hasn't yet identified the land where the fencing will be built.
And a group hired to raise money as part of the fence project hasn't started collecting funds. The federal nonprofit status the group needs for its nationwide fundraising campaign has been pending for a year.
Fencing that has already been erected by the federal government covers about 650 miles, or one-third, of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
Nearly half sits in Arizona — a busy gateway for both illegal immigrants and marijuana — with the rest equally divided among California, New Mexico and Texas.
Arizona's project aims to cover every unfenced area of Arizona's 376-mile border with Mexico.
The project's top advocate, Republican state Sen. Steve Smith from the city of Maricopa, said he had hoped to have an announcement for the one-year anniversary of the launch of the project's fundraising effort, but that things have taken longer than he'd hoped. Smith said he's "very close" to starting work on part of the fence, which he hopes will be a one-mile section.
Smith said he's in talks with two fencing companies after the first firm he dealt with had pledged to contribute materials. A change in management at the first firm put those talks on hold, Smith said.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2007 that a mile of double-steel fencing would cost about $1.5 million. A 2009 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated the cost at $2.8 million per mile.
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, a Democrat from Phoenix, said this is exactly what he predicted last year when the border fence effort began. Campbell called the project a "political pyramid scheme."
"This whole thing is an absolute fiasco," Campbell said.
Republican Rep. Russ Jones of Yuma, a chairman of the Legislature's advisory committee, has long said that building a full fence would be nearly impossible. But that doesn't mean nothing will ever be built.
"I don't think with the money that's raised that it's going to be a large area," Jones said. "It may be more symbolic than anything. But it will be something."
Even if only a mile or less of fencing goes up, Jones said it still could help U.S. Customs and Border Patrol with interdiction efforts and could help encourage more contributions to the fund.