PHOENIX â€“ Â Arizona lawmakers want more fence along the border with Mexico — whether the federal government thinks it’s necessary or not.
They’ve got a plan that could get a project started using online donations and prison labor. If they get enough money, all they would have to do is get cooperation from landowners and construction could begin as soon as this year.
“We’re going to build this site as fast as we can, and promote it, and market the heck out of it,” said Smith, a first-term Republican senator.
Arizona — strapped for cash and mired in a budget crisis — is already using public donations to pay for its legal defense of the controversial get-tough illegal immigration law, known as SB1070.
The state is appealing a federal judge’s ruling blocking key provisions of the law, including a requirement that immigrants get or carry immigration registration papers.
Part of the marketing pitch for donations could include providing certificates declaring that individual contributors “helped build the Arizona wall,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a really, really neat thing.”
Construction would start “after we’ve raised a significant amount of money first” but possibly as soon as later this year, Smith said.
“If the website is up and there is an overwhelming response to what we’ve done and millions of dollars in this fund, I would see no reason why engineering or initial construction or finalized plans can’t be accomplished,” he said.
The nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border already has about 650 miles of fence of one type or another, nearly half of it in Arizona. The state’s border is the busiest gateway for both illegal immigrants and marijuana smuggling.
Department ofÂ Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said federal officials declined to comment on the Arizona legislation.
State Corrections Director Charles Ryan said getting inmate labor to help construct border fencing wouldn’t be a problem.
Minimum-security prisoners already have been used to clear brush in immigrants’ hiding spots near the border and clean up trash and other material dumped by border-crossers, he said.
Work crews of Arizona inmates also have been used to refurbish public buildings, build sidewalks and construct park facilities.
At 50 cents an hour, “we are a relatively inexpensive labor force,” Ryan said. “If we have the funding to do it, we’re capable of doing it.”
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