‘Virtual fence’ at Mexican border to grow

Paul Raven @ 12-05-2009

US/Mexico border at TijuanaThe Obama administration is pushing ahead with the expansion of a pilot project launched by the outgoing Bush gang – a ‘virtual border fence’ of cameras, sensors and communications hardware designed to enable a more rapid response to Mexican illegal immigrants from the Border Patrol.

What is different, DHS officials said, is that they have learned lessons from the technical problems that dogged the Bush administration’s first, 28-mile pilot project south of Tucson. What remains unclear is whether the ambitious technology will encounter fresh setbacks that would embarrass President Obama, who has urged Congress to streamline the immigration system and work out a way to deal fairly with the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, analysts said

[…]

On Monday, U.S. officials began erecting 17 camera and radio towers on a 23-mile stretch near Tucson, and they expect this summer to add 36 others over 30 miles near Ajo, Ariz. If testing goes well and DHS approves, plans call for covering the 320-mile Arizona border by 2012 and the full border with Mexico — except for a 200-mile stretch in southwestern Texas where it is difficult to cross and expensive to monitor — by 2014.

[…]

The government has made many changes since a $20 million pilot rushed off-the-shelf equipment into operation without testing, relied on inadequate police dispatching software and ignored the input of Border Patrol officers, who found that radar systems were triggered by rain, satellite communications were too slow to permit camera operators to track targets by remote control, and cameras had poor visibility.

It remains to be seen how much of an improvement the new systems will be, but the cynic (and science fiction reader) in me doesn’t find it hard to imagine new methodologies being developed by border-jumpers and those who make a living helping them cross, which will quickly render the new hardware inadequate, if not obsolete. That said, it’s a much less crass and weird idea than allowing unpaid volunteers from around the world make a sport out of border surveillance.

The only way to make any border truly impermeable is to remove all incentive for people to cross it; that suggests to me that all the high-tech gadgets and fences in the world won’t stop people trying to immigrate across the Mexican border with the US. All it will achieve is more deaths, more imprisonment of people whose ‘criminal’ motive is to make a better life for themselves and their families, and more hypocrisy from those who deplore the notion of immigrant labour while enjoying the low costs it provides. But hey – why treat the illness when you can rub snake-oil on the symptoms, right? [via SlashDot; image by superfem]