June 06, 2008

ACLU update on the border fence

Something in the Water at the Heritage Foundation?

James Carafano has been blogging on the Heritage Foundation’s “The Foundry” this week on his trip to our southern border. Carafano has been mighty impressed with all the potential benefits of increased border security. Specifically, Carafano believes it will protect the environment, even though Defenders of Wildlife has warned that the erection of a border fence will have “serious and lasting” effects on wildlife, clean water and clean air in the region. He’s also convinced it will reduce human fatalities, even though over 200 people die on the border each year, mostly from exposure, while the rate of illegal immigration remains steady.

But today’s post is a real humdinger. Titled “Virtual Fences Can Help Make Real Good Neighbors,” it praises the rollout of “Project 28,” part of the Department of Homeland Security’s initiative to create a “virtual fence” of video surveillance, motion sensors and other nifty gadgets along 28 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border. But as the Government Accountability Office and The Washington Post reported in February, Project 28 has been an utter fiasco. None of the technology has worked, and DHS decided to scrap the pilot project (they are now trying again with newer, fancier equipment).

However, even if the technology had worked, it’s not clear the program would have. Residents of Arivaca, Ariz., an unincorporated town nearby on of Project 28’s video surveillance towers, complained that while DHS reported the tower’s field of vision was only about 10 miles, the agency had placed it right next to the town, which happens to be 12 miles from the border. The potential for the federal government to spy on American citizens was real; the impact on border security, not so much.

But forget the fact that Project 28 is a complete boondoggle for a moment (Carafano admits that in addition to suffering from “bad publicity,” nobody at DHS bothered to ask the Border Patrol what they actually needed). The virtual fence is also one of the largest government gravy trains out there, and the main beneficiary has been Boeing Corp. Boeing got the original contract to install Project 28, and despite its failure to build something that works for more that $860 million in taxpayer dollars, DHS keeps offering the company new contracts. Just last month, it was announced that Boeing would be asked to build on its “experience” with Project 28 to construct two new sections of virtual fence in Arizona and Michigan.

Now to return to our friends at Heritage: Why would a think tank that advocates for limited government, free enterprise and strong national defense support a program that is massively expensive to taxpayers, invades the privacy of local residents, and amounts to a handout to a company that has repeatedly failed to secure our borders? A massive buildup of surveillance technology at the border is the kind of cash cow that fiscal conservatives and civil libertarians should be united in opposing. We’re eagerly waiting to welcome our friends at Heritage to the right side of the (virtual) fence.


  1. esb Says:

    Why would an American “civil liberties” group discuss an issue that doesn’t seem to have much to do with civil liberties? Would you consider, perhaps, instead of arguing for the “civil liberties” (I’m sure you would somehow explain that they do, indeed, exist) of people trying to illegally enter our country you could defend the 2nd Amendment from extinction?

  2. lokywoky Says:

    All this fence stuff is a bunch of crap. What is needed instead is good diplomacy, repeal and/or modifications in NAFTA to prohibit our subsidized agricultural megacorporations (Monsanto, etal) from dumping corn (especially GMO corn) on community markets. We need to help Mexico address its development issues, help them turn their economy around (using sustainable farming and recognizing that subsistence farming is not a dirty word), and make things better for the people there. If they could make a decent living - they would not come here for the most part. They are actually economic refugees.
    My son-in-law runs a day-labor firm in the south, he says 90% of his workers come here, stay for about 3-4 years - or long enough to save up about $25,000 (in addition to sending money home) and then return to their country of origin. That sum of money is enough to build a nice house (their standards) and provide enough income for their family to live satisfactorily for the rest of their lives.

    Man - we would be better off to just stand at the border and hand them the money - it would be cheaper and much more efficient than these stupid fences, the cost of the border patrol, the cost of the ICE and its raids and detention centers, etc etc etc.

    What a concept! Stop the problem at its source instead of trying to criminalize it on the back end.

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