AIA San Diego and AIA Palomar Statement on Proposed U.S./Mexico Enhanced Border Security Measures

San Diego, CA – February 6, 2018 —The American Institute of Architects, San Diego and Palomar Chapters, ninety-year-old non-profit leaders in the regional design and development sectors with nearly 1,000 members between them, are deeply interested in the topic of border security and the effective regulation of the frontier between the United States of America and Mexico. We embrace the idea that rule-based, transparent, and efficient management of the movement of people and goods between Mexico and the U.S. is vital to our shared well-being.

The international border-crossings between San Diego and Tijuana are the world’s busiest, reflecting the long history of settlement, migration and commerce in the region and its emergence as a global economic center. Large, diverse populations on both sides of the border move back and forth between the two regions, with countless people connected by family, culture, language and business, leading to a robust and economically beneficial bilateral relationship.

When considering ways to reduce the entry to the U.S. of persons without legal status, we assert that care must be taken to ensure that far-reaching, long-lasting and expensive responses don’t risk offering cures that are worse than the problem. A plan to spend $20 to $50 billion on greatly extending existing physical barriers, such as walls, to deter undocumented entry from Mexico, should be justified by evidence that these investments will offer significant benefits.

Most who arrive in the U.S. across the southern border without authorization do so where Mexico/U.S. urban areas interface. In limited circumstances, at key paired-city locations, walls and heavy fencing can be useful and contribute to preventing unauthorized entry. However, along much of the rural border, existing fencing, sensing technologies and physical patrolling appear to be vastly more cost-effective. Recently reported steep declines in undocumented entry (as much as 80%) have occurred despite almost no new barrier-building.

At a time when the need for public investment in infrastructure is acute nation-wide, applying many billions of tax dollars to unneeded wall construction is unwise. Dollars should be invested in public bricks and mortar projects such as parks, recreation facilities, libraries, schools and mass transit. For example, an expenditure of $20 billion can create 1,000 elementary schools or 2,500 branch libraries to enhance our local communities.

We urge those considering how to better limit the unauthorized entry of people to the United States along the border with Mexico to weigh carefully the actual extent and cost of the current problem against the significant cultural, political and economic benefits we now derive from our relationship with an important ally. We urge a thoughtful, measured approach to enhancing security along our border with Mexico that is evidence-based and we advocate for infrastructure projects that will enhance our communities and natural environment.


Bastiaan Bouma, (619)232-0109,