Saturday, February 23, 2008

U.S. Scales Back Virtual Border Fence

WASHINGTON -- The government yesterday officially unveiled its $20 million "virtual fence," touted for months as one of the most effective ways to secure America's leaky U.S.-Mexico border.

But the problems that have plagued the high-tech barrier mean that the fence's first 28 miles will also likely be its last. The Department of Homeland Security now says it doesn't plan to replicate the Boeing Co. initiative anywhere else. A spokeswoman says there are no plans to expand the project beyond its first phase, although Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says "some elements" of the project may be used in other locations.

The effective mothballing of the concept is a setback for the government's border-protection efforts, an embarrassment for politicians backing the idea of an electronic fence and a blow to Boeing, the project's designer. It will also do little to settle the fractious politics of immigration, which continue to reverberate around the campaign trail.

The virtual fence, called Project 28, came up during Thursday's debate in Austin, Texas, when both Democratic presidential candidates expressed their support for a high-tech alternative to the federal government's construction of a 12-foot-tall physical fence. That project, begun last year, has elicited outcry from Texas property owners and local officials.


Jennifer said...

I remember last year when I first read about the idea to create a border to block the Mexico- U.S. border. Many thoughts came into my head—the majority of which were against the idea. How would we come up with the money? How is a wall even going to solve the immigration “problem”? How are other countries going to view the U.S. after this proposal? The 300+ mile fence would soon become a national symbol to both citizens and foreigners—a symbol that strays from America’s other icons like the eagle and flag. Patrolling immigration also seems like a jab to the idea of a melting pot nation.

Looking for someone to blame for these decisions, a year ago I put it on Bush and his administration. But with further research I’ve learned that Bush has actually been pushing for a guest-worker program that would allow immigrants to obtain work visas for a certain period. Immigrants primarily occupy jobs that employees can’t fill—thus not imposing a threat to U.S. citizens. Congress and the Senate are skeptical to Bush’s plan and they’ve not passed any resolution.

The idea for a virtual fence makes the situation more pressing. It’s definitely been a topic in the presidential election, but I wonder how a new president is going to implement their stance. Hillary Clinton is against laws punishing undocumented workers, but there are 12 million living in the U.S. I’m not sure what a positive immigration law would like, but the Senate is trying to come to a compromise. Some Senators are working to strengthen border patrol while also allowing the guest-worker program Bush proposed.

My personal thoughts on the subject are still unclear. From living in Athens and in Columbus, I still have yet to grasp the impact of immigration. Currently I don’t think we should be too worried, but Ohio isn’t where the majority of immigrants are settling. I will be monitoring the election candidates to see how each person’s stance fairs so I can be prepared for the future.

Kim said...

Good fences make good neighbors? When I think of the border fence, I get a bit woozy. Why do we need a physical or technological barrier across much of the southern U.S.? I could understand more of the argument for the fence if it was to control drug trafficking or to protect the U.S. from terrorists. The argument against illegal immigration in the southern U.S. never really seems about terrorism, but often seems more like anger about immigrants taking jobs away and sapping money from public programs. We’re spending billions on this fence. This fence is worth the money, but other initiatives are not.
But, I’m not from a border state, so maybe the fence makes more sense for those most directly affected. I guess I could support the fence more if we built a fence along the Canadian border as well.

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