El Paso Times
September 26, 2008
AUSTIN -- Nearly all of the 110 miles of border fencing planned for West Texas and New Mexico have been contracted out at the cost of more than $220 million, a Department of Homeland Security official said Thursday.
Angela de Rocha, a Homeland Security spokeswoman, said the department has awarded 11 contracts for fencing in the U.S. Border Patrol's El Paso sector, which includes Hudspeth and El Paso counties in Texas and all of New Mexico.
Homeland Security is working to complete 670 miles of fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of this year. About 340 miles of fence has been built, and Congress has approved $2.6 billion for construction. But Homeland Security officials recently told Congress the project might not be finished on target and asked for an additional $400 million for construction.
The El Paso sector contracts, which are composed of all but one mile of fencing planned for the region, total about $228 million, de Rocha said.
"Until this final contract is awarded, the completion date for the El Paso sector is to be determined," she said in an e-mail.
Doug Mosier, a spokesman for the El Paso Border Patrol sector, said just more than three miles of pedestrian fencing, 15- to 18-foot-high wire mesh barriers, have been completed in Doña Ana County.
Three other stretches of fence are now under construction. One project is in Luna County, N.M.
In Santa Teresa, a one-mile stretch is being built beginning at the port of entry and running east.
And in El Paso County, a 9.6-mile section of the fence is being built, starting one mile east of the Bridge of the Americas port of entry and extending to one mile east of the Ysleta port of entry.
That is part of a 60-mile stretch of fencing that will extend east to Fort Hancock.
Mosier said the goal is to complete all fencing in the El Paso sector by the endof the year.
"The overall goal is to be able to impede illegal immigrants and the smuggling activity that comes with that at times," he said.
The fencing, he said, would also reduce attacks on Border Patrol agents.
Border fencing has met perhaps the stiffest opposition in Texas, where Homeland Security has faced legal challenges and loud protests from border residents and community leaders.
This week, El Paso County decided to take its case against the DHS to the Supreme Court.
The lawsuit -- which the city, the Tigua tribe and other local groups joined -- challenges the constitutionality of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Cher toff's use of waivers to bypass dozens of laws and build the barrier quickly.
"If we don't pursue this, É what we are saying is we will accept whatever the government wants to dish out regardless of whether it violates our civil rights," said El Paso County Commissioner Veronica Escobar.