Thursday, February 28, 2008

problems with the virtual fence

From Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post (hat tip: Drudge)...

The Bush administration has scaled back plans to quickly build a "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border, delaying completion of the first phase of the project by at least three years and shifting away from a network of tower-mounted sensors and surveillance gear, federal officials said yesterday.

Technical problems discovered in a 28-mile pilot project south of Tucson prompted the change in plans, Department of Homeland Security officials and congressional auditors told a House subcommittee....

The announcement marked a major setback for what President Bush in May 2006 called "the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history." The virtual fence was to be a key component of his proposed overhaul of U.S. immigration policies, which died last year in the Senate.

Investigators for the Government Accountability Office had earlier warned that the effort was beset by both expected and unplanned difficulties. But yesterday, they disclosed new troubles that will require a redesign and said the first phase will not be completed until near the end of the next president's first term....

Boeing has said that the initial effort, while flawed, still has helped Homeland Security apprehend 2,000 illegal immigrants since September. It estimated in 2006 that it would spend $7.6 billion through 2011 to secure the entire 2,000-mile southern border, an ambition that was meant to win support from conservatives for legislation creating a guest-worker program and a path to legalization for 12 million illegal immigrants.

But officials said yesterday that they now expect to complete the first phase of the virtual fence's deployment -- roughly 100 miles near Tucson and Yuma, AZ, and El Paso, TX -- by the end of 2011, instead of by the end of 2008....

A nongovernment source familiar with the project said that the Bush administration's push to speed the project during last year's immigration debate led Boeing to deploy equipment without enough testing or consultation....

Two things come out of this:
1.) The need to supplement external border enforcement with internal enforcement. Border security can only do so much-- and if one is serious about illegal immigration, a coherent plan must (strongly) address businesses which hire illegals. It would be akin to a "War on Drugs" that just worried about the border, but said nothing about drugs once they were in the country.

2.) The difference between theory and practice-- and what we're sold by various interest groups and bureaucrats. Two years ago, the talk was that we just needed a physical fence. And proponents of that plan estimated costs that were ridiculously low. Now, we have a virtual/physical fence-- more realistic, but still fraught with problems.


2 Comments:

At February 29, 2008 at 1:52 PM , Blogger Keith said...

Eric,
I agree with a focus on the demand for illegal immigrants first, then the supply. Arizona has cracked down on employers that hire illegals and they are now seeing an exodus of illegals from that state. If more states did this, border crossings would go way down. We could then take our time building a fence that would help deter those not interested in jobs, but terror. While the cost of the fence is cited as an obstacle, it would likely pale in comparison to another 9/11 size event in a major metropolitan city.

 
At February 29, 2008 at 2:45 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Agreed, but I think it is far more likely that terrorists will cross our Northern border, since those of Middle-Eastern descent fit in more easily in Canada and we don't police our our Northern border as diligently.

 

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