The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jenny Neeley, Sky Island Alliance, (520) 490-3564
Julie Hillrichs, Vianovo/Texas Border Coalition, (972) 971-0117
Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 536-9351


New Poll: Americans Support Greater Investment in Ports of Entry, Not Border Walls

Majority Also Opposes Waiving Laws for New Wall Construction


An overwhelming number of Americans believe strengthening U.S. ports of entry is a better approach to border security than building additional border walls, a new poll by YouGov for Tucson-based Sky Island Alliance has found. The poll also found that a large majority of Americans also oppose waiving laws to build additional infrastructure and do not believe the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the expertise necessary to do the job safely and properly.

"In examining this data, it is clear that the vast majority of Americans (92 percent) strongly prefer beefing up the ports of entry to spending billions on hundreds of miles of fencing in between the ports," said Thom Riehle, senior vice president for public affairs with YouGov, the international, internet-based market research firm that conducted the online poll of 1,000 adults May 10-12, 2011. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Riehle said the poll sheds light on how quickly accurate information can move Americans from a majority supporting to a majority opposing the border wall. Though a surprisingly large number of respondents (56 percent) do not know much about the existing border wall, the new public-opinion data demonstrate that Americans are frustrated with the way the federal government is handling border issues such as immigration (81 percent) and illegal drugs (76 percent).

Without context or information, a majority of respondents (63 percent) originally supported almost any border security measure, including the wall. Only liberal Democrats, Hispanics and adults under 35 years of age strongly opposed the concept.

However, when respondents learn that nearly 650 miles of walls and other infrastructure have already been erected along the nation's 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico and that it would cost $6 million to $9 million per mile to add more barriers, support for the wall drops by 4 points to 59 percent.

Additional information and photographs showing the flooding and damage that occurs because the Department of Homeland Security has waived all laws otherwise applicable to wall construction and lacks expertise to construct walls and other infrastructure helps to shift majority support away from extending the border wall, with 52 percent opposing or strongly opposing such a plan.

Sky Island Alliance Executive Director Melanie Emerson said the strongest arguments against extending the border wall are that the wall is ineffective and that it drains resources away from ports of entry where they are needed.

"In times of economic uncertainty it is important to focus resources where they will be most effective. There is no excuse for wasting billions on a program that we know -- and even the strongest advocates admit -- won't work," Emerson said.

Emerson also pointed out that the lack of environmental expertise at Homeland Security, and the fact that the agency is not subject to any regulations or oversight under its existing waiver authority, is a serious problem for a majority of respondents.

"Sixty-four percent oppose giving DHS sole discretion to waive environmental and other laws to build border infrastructure, and an identical number (64 percent) oppose congressional efforts to permanently waive these laws for border security," Emerson said.

Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: "Negative reaction is strong whether the agency is waiving environmental laws in sensitive lands or engineering and constructing border infrastructure without the engineering expertise necessary to do it safely."

Monica Weisberg-Stewart, a McAllen, Texas businesswoman and chairwoman of the Texas Border Coalition's Immigration and Border Security Committee, said Americans expect Homeland Security to do what it does best, where its efforts are most effective, and that is to block the illegal entry of immigrants and drugs at the ports of entry.

"Border Patrol policies, manpower, facilities and technology have to go hand-in-hand with customs and border-protection policies, manpower, facilities and technology. Both have to fit together to fulfill national goals involving trade, economic development, drug interdiction, foreign policy and immigration," she said. "To attempt to solve problems involving one and not the other is a recipe for failure."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252