Despite the 18-foot-tall iron security fence cutting through her family’s citrus farm, Bonnie Elbert still sees a relentless flow of undocumented immigrants and smugglers carrying trash bags full of drugs sneaking into this southern tip of the USA.
Elbert considers herself politically conservative and wants lawmakers to do something about illegal immigration. But the proposal to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to make America safer – a campaign cornerstone of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump – is unrealistic, she said.
“The one we have doesn’t really work,” Elbert said as she drove recently through Loop Farms, more than 700 acres of orange and grapefruit orchards the family has tended since the 1920s. “What makes them think a new one will?”
Trump’s proposal to build a 40-foot-high wall across the U.S. border with Mexico and make Mexico pay for it sparked a Twitter clash between the GOP candidate and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Residents on the border have lived for years with a close facsimile: 650 miles of metal fencing and other barriers erected in 2009 and stretching, in sections, from this Texas border city to the California coast. The fence, created through the 2006 Secure Fence Act, is nearly continuous along the border with Arizona, New Mexico and California, thanks to long stretches of federal land along the border. But in Texas, the fence is chopped up into multiple sections because the state’s border with Mexico is comprised mostly of private property, which is harder to acquire and build on.
Trump has said he needs to build only about 1,000 miles of wall along the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico, due to natural barriers. But the current fence sparked costly legal fights with property owners, disrupted communities that straddle the border and has proven largely ineffective in stemming the flow of undocumented immigrants, according to residents, community leaders and border patrol officials.
Whoever pays for it, a newer, bigger wall would waste more money and be just as futile in preventing illegal crossings, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez said.