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A secure border? What's it worth to you?

How can illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border be reduced or stopped? Some proposals.

November 13, 2005

Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff 's plan

Source: Department of Homeland Security.

Proposed method: 1,000 more Border Patrol agents in 2006; such border-control technologies as sensors and unmanned surveillance.

Estimated cost: Unspecified.

Description: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the plan this month to significantly reduce illegal border crossings within five years. Spokesman Jarrod Agen said the 2006 budget for customs and border protection would increase 11%, to $7 billion. "We are not talking about building a giant wall across our borders," Chertoff said.

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A bigger, better border fence?

Source: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon).

Proposed method: An 1,800-mile fence from Texas to California, along with more Border Patrol agents and tougher laws.

Estimated cost: $1.8 billion.

Description: Hunter released his plan this month. The price tag is for the fence only. His Washington office had no cost estimates for non-fence components of the plan. "We've had tremendous success with the fence in San Diego," said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter. The Department of Homeland Security is spending $35 million to complete and equip the last 3.5 miles of the California wall.

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How the Minutemen would handle it

Source: The Minuteman Project, which relies on volunteers to police the border.

Proposed method: More Border Patrol agents and immigration investigators.

Estimated cost: $15 billion annually.

Description: Founder Jim Gilchrist's estimate reflects a huge increase in funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and for the Border Patrol. That includes increasing the number of Border Patrol agents from the current 11,000 to 30,000. Immigration personnel would increase to 10,000 officers, compared with 6,000 now. "Until they can hire and train an adequate staff, it has to be supplemented by federal troops, National Guard or active military," Gilchrist said. He estimates that these troops alone would cost $1 billion a year.

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Looking at the bigger picture

Source: The Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit research group in Washington.

Proposed method: Tougher customs and border enforcement.

Estimated cost: $7 billion to $8 billion annually.

Description: The estimate would cover the bare minimum: stopping illegal border crossers. Director of research Steven Camarota emphasized that enhancing border security makes sense only with a comprehensive immigration plan -- with work-site enforcement as the centerpiece.

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