From the El Paso Times…
EL PASO — Some call it “El muro de odio,” or the “wall of hate” — the approximately 670-mile border fence installed by the United States.
The part that runs through El Paso was on display Saturday for some participants of the National Latino Congreso that is meeting in the city.
The controversial border fence, which was started in 2006 at a cost of $2.6 billion, was built by the federal government to prevent illegal immigration, to stop terrorists, to prevent violence along the border and to restrict harmful diseases.
Hispanic leaders from throughout the nation were in El Paso on Saturday to speak about immigration reform and the importance of Hispanics in the nation during the congreso.
The congreso is working to highlight issues important to Hispanics, such as immigration reform, the economy and clean energy.
More than two dozen participants of the congreso took a tour of the recently constructed border fence, which separates the U.S. from Mexico.
Bill Addington, who led the tour, said it cost between $5 million and $7 million a mile to build the fence, which was completed in 2008. The total cost to build and maintain it for about 20 years is an estimated $40 billion to $57 billion, he said. /* Remember when a billion dollars was a lot of money? What a waste. */
He said the longest section of the fence in Texas extends 57 miles from Yarbrough Drive in El Paso to McNary. /* McNary, Texas */
Most of those who took the tour were vocal opponents of the border fence who said it did not prevent motivated immigrants from crossing into the U.S.
Groups that support the fence, such as the Border Fence Project, claim that the fence helps stop illegal immigration. They claim that undocumented immigrants increase costs to the local and federal government, and contribute to overcrowded classes in schools. /* Despite actual numbers that show “illegal” immigrants actually boost the local economy. Hate tends to blind one to facts, however */
Saturday’s tour of the fence included people from areas such as El Paso, San Antonio, Arizona and California.
Addington said it would take only three to five minutes for someone to climb the fence and enter the country. He said about 8,000 people die each year while trying to cross the desert after entering the country illegally. Most of these deaths occur in Arizona, he said.
Opponents of the fence said its existence is a violation of human rights.
“Without immigration reform, communities will just be terrorized by hate, by people who abuse immigration laws,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, commissioner of Arizona’s Maricopa County.
Miguel Rosales, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4483 in San Antonio, said Americans need to become more aware of the contributions immigrants have made nationally.
He said that while many blame undocumented immigrants for increases in crime, it is a problem that would exist anyway. /* This is the Bill O’Reilly meme. */
“This is a wall that is being constructed because of political issues,” said Efrain Jimenez, spokesman for the Zacatecan Federation of Southern California, a group of organizations from Zacatecas, Mexico. “It is a monument for the incapacity of our government to make a responsible solution. It definitely should not be here, by no means.”