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Immigration opponents have long held up San Diego’s 10-mile border fence as an example of the benefits of building a barrier between the United States and Mexico. It helped funnel illegal immigration corridors into the Arizona desert and cut down on foot traffic through the sensitive Tijuana Estuary.

But as fence proponents advocate for building a wall through sensitive habitat in the southern tip of Texas, the San Diego fence is cropping up as an example of why fences don’t work — and why building them can be extraordinarily expensive. The elevated costs of building a border fence through sensitive habitat near Border Field State Park — delayed by environmental lawsuits — have in part helped highlight just how costly fence construction can be.

Congress, which has authorized the construction of 370 miles of fencing along the 1,951-mile border between the United States and Mexico, doesn’t know how expensive the massive project will be.

Estimates range from the $2 billion described by fence proponents such as U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, to the $49 billion outlined by a nonpartisan congressional research report.

In a story today about the Texas fence debate, The New York Times points a finger at the San Diego fence:

Supporters say a fence is crucial to shoring up the nation’s southern border. Critics say that a 10-foot-high wall in San Diego is already being scaled by illegal immigrants using ladders, and that technology alone — a virtual fence — could provide much of the same security.

ROB DAVIS

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