Gadgets not effective against illegal immigration

Freedom New Mexico

We do love our toys, especially when we don’t have to pay for them.

To their credit, some government officials are finally starting to tire of pouring taxpayers’ money into the $6.7 billion “virtual fence” along the Mexican border. President Obama might cut nearly $200 million from the project.

The Bush administration announced the project, with a hefty contract for its friends at Boeing, to cover our southern border with the system that seeks to integrate radar, heat and motion sensors and cameras to catch the flood of people encroaching our borders every day.

Unfortunately, the system’s not catching many people.

The project was announced in 2005, and was to be finished next year. Delays and logistical problems pushed the target date back to 2014. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has asked that the whole project be reviewed. “Americans need border security now — not 10 years down the road,” Napolitano said, adding that the government needs to start looking for more reliable and cost-effective options.

The plans were ambitious. Fed with billions of our tax dollars, Boeing promised all kinds of gadgets: Remote-controlled cameras and sensors — even real-time Internet feeds so interested civilians could monitor the system and call Border Patrol officials if they saw something.

But the heat sensors couldn’t tell the difference between a person and a coyote; bushes rustling in the breeze set off the motion sensors. The camera controls responded slowly to remote commands, and by the time operators turned the lenses to catch something they thought they had seen, whatever it was had already moved away.

Thousands of people did log on to the Internet sites to help keep vigil on the areas the cameras covered. The system recorded some 39 million hits. The virtual posse’s efforts, combined with all the other materials, netted about a dozen arrests and a couple of drug captures.

Millions of similar security systems, albeit on a smaller scale, work just fine at homes and businesses across the country. Those systems, however, were bought by people on a budget, who demanded results and could jump to another vendor if not satisfied. With virtually carte blanche to pick taxpayers’ pockets, however, federal officials were attracted to shiny new toys — toys that just didn’t work.

It’s time to put away the toys, and in making our immigration system more efficient. Better, faster processing of applications and elimination of senseless, arbitrary quotas will enable more people to gain legal residency. That will do more to reduce illegal immigration than any bells and whistles ever would.