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Some Doubt Border Technology's Efficacy

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060517/ap_on_re_us/immigration_border_technology;_ylt=ArwY8IgbNuP3.FRthxCS5P6s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MjBwMWtkBHNlYwM3MTg- Some Doubt
    Message 1 of 1 , May 17, 2006

      Some Doubt Border Technology's Efficacy

      By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press Writer 1 hour,
      12 minutes ago

      EL PASO, Texas - Beto O'Rourke has lived in El Paso
      most of his life and cannot remember a time when there
      wasn't a fence or towering flood lights and
      pole-mounted cameras lining the banks of the Rio

      So when President Bush proposed adding a high-tech
      fence, cameras and other technology to urban areas
      along the Mexican border, O'Rourke didn't pay much

      "It didn't seem like a meaningful suggestion at all,"
      said O'Rourke, a 33-year-old freshman city councilman
      in this border city. "But maybe that's because we
      already have it and it doesn't seem to be working."

      El Paso's border isn't alone in having the kinds of
      technology Bush proposed this week. Most urban spots
      along the Texas-Mexico border, as well San Diego and
      Nogales, Ariz., have them too. But still, immigrants
      and drug smugglers have found their way across the
      riverbed in Texas and deserts of Arizona, California,
      New Mexico and Arizona.

      In El Paso, the largest city on the southern border,
      flood lights line nearly 20 miles of border and two
      sets of barbed wire-topped chain link fences line
      about 14 miles. Near downtown, three fences stretch
      across five miles.

      Bush's technology proposals were included in a plan
      announced Monday to stem illegal immigration, in part
      by deploying up to 6,000 National Guard members to
      help secure the 2,000-mile border. In Washington,
      Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar told reporters that
      the upgrades and Guard assistance "is going to be a
      tremendous enforcement support partnership."

      But T.J. Bonner, the head of the union that represents
      nearly all U.S. Border Patrol agents, said the plan
      was "underwhelming."

      "The whole thing is just a smoke screen," said Bonner,
      president of the National Border Patrol Council.

      He also questioned how the technology will be
      implemented. The last time cameras and sensors were
      bought and installed — a project that started in the
      1990s — millions of dollars were spent on equipment
      that was either never installed or improperly

      A federal investigation was launched in 2005 after an
      audit revealed lax oversight of the program, which was
      designed to keep tabs on unmanned sections of the
      border at all times.

      Another part of Bush's plan — building vehicle
      barriers in rural areas — could run into problems
      along parts of the border. In Texas, where the border
      is marked by the winding Rio Grande, that option may
      not be the most practical.

      Sheriff Danny C. Dominguez of Presidio County, said
      building barriers — hollow six-foot-tall reinforced
      steel beams planted in the desert floor and filled
      with cement — across the 108 miles of river in his
      rural county would be a waste of money. The desert in
      his county near Texas' Big Bend region is rugged and
      difficult to drive in even the heaviest of vehicles.

      Bonner noted numerous spots along Texas' 1,200-mile
      river border that are simply too deep and wide to
      cross in a vehicle. And the spaced-out steel pipes
      wouldn't do much to stop row boats and inner tubes
      used to ferry immigrants and drug loads across the

      Mayor David Franz of Hidalgo, Texas, whose small city
      is across the river from Reynosa, Mexico, population
      750,000, doesn't want barriers or a fence.

      "Fences and barriers I don't think is going to be the
      answer," he said. "I don't want the border to appear
      like a military zone. We've enjoyed a very good and
      long-lasting relationship with our Mexican neighbors
      and putting up a wall or a fence sends a wrong

      Bonner said an unmanned aerial vehicle, which Bush
      also proposed adding to the federal border arsenal,
      sounds like a good idea but is an overly expensive
      tool. Besides, the one UAV the Border Patrol did have
      crashed in the Arizona desert last month.

      "We crashed the one we owned," Bonner said. "Kissed
      that...tax money goodbye."


      Associated Press Writer Lynn Brezosky in Harlingen
      contributed to this report.
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