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Log on, pay up – and help to keep out immigrants

Arizona is to launch a website soliciting cash from private citizens to build new fencing along its border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants.

The move follows the national furore created by the state after it passed a law obliging police patrols to apprehend and help to deport anyone they thought might be in the United States illegally,

The latest effort is in part a riposte by Arizona conservatives to the federal government, which they accuse of moving too slowly to seal America's borders. A bill signed by Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, says citizens should be asked to make online contributions to the construction of the fence or wall.

According to congressional estimates, it costs between $400,000 and $1.5m a mile to raise a border fence, though Arizona's latest stretch would largely be built by prison chain gangs, with prisoners working for 50 cents an hour.

Online donations are already helping Arizona to defend its controversial immigration law, the main provisions of which have been blocked by the federal government. So far 44,000 gifts have been made to the fund, for a total of $3.7m, as as Arizona moved aggressively to slash spending in its formal state budget.

The fence website is the brainchild of Senator Steve Smith. "We're going to build this site as fast as we can, and promote it, and market the heck out of it," he promised.

He said he meant to entice putative givers with the promise of a certificate that would say: "I helped build the Arizona wall." This, he said, was "going to be a really, really neat thing".

President Barack Obama will travel to El Paso, Texas, tomorrow to deliver a speech exhorting Congress to get to grips with immigration reform, which would include a path to citizenship for the more than 10 million immigrants already working in the US illegally. The lack of progress on the issue is costing Mr Obama Hispanic support. He will use the occasion to argue that the federal government has made big strides towards securing the border with Mexico.