There are some lawmakers in our state who are hoping to create a type of “virtual fence” over the next few years. State Senator Bob Worsley has proposed a plan that would put an additional 300 watch towers along the Arizona and Mexico border. These towers would include the most up-to-date technology allowing personnel to observe an area spanning approximately 350 miles. Sen. Worsley is currently in talks with a Utah company that provides this form of technology.
The bill was first passed by a Senate committee in February of this year, but it was a tough sell. Republican lawmakers seemed most concerned about price and privacy issues. Before the bill can become a law, however, the proposed legislation must be approved by the full Senate and the House and also signed by Governor Brewer.
Lawmakers who question the law wonder if it is the best use of the state's money. Republican Senator Chester Crandell said, during the committee debate, that he believes the federal government, not the state, should be paying for a project such as this.
As many of you know, Arizona has a Republican-controlled legislature and governor. This is a fact that has led to a variety of conflicts between our state and the Obama administration. One main area of disagreement is the issue of immigration reform. Specifically, what is the best way to approach the concern of undocumented immigrants crossing over to the U.S.? When immigrants attempt to cross without documentation, they often times face dangerous situations and take great risks.
Sen. Worsley believes that the virtual fence would allow Arizona to adapt better if and when the current immigration reform bill gets passed in Congress. The plan involves constructing towers within one mile of the border. These towers would include radar and video cameras.
One interesting thing about these towers and their equipment is the fact that anyone with an internet connection has the ability to see what is going on at any given time. A test with this new system is scheduled to take place at the state capitol in the near future. During a discussion about the radar technology, Sen. Worsley said that the “device can monitor more than 250 acres with a specialty in spotting human foot traffic.” In addition, he noted that an infrared camera, a cell, a solar panel and a battery will all be a part of this “cost effective” monitoring station.
Although the idea of a virtual border fence sounds new, there was actually a similar proposal in January of 2011. This plan was blocked by the Obama administration. At that time, there were other, more appropriate security measures available. The failed project cost right around $1 billion and had proposed a design that used video cameras, sensors, and radar to monitor the border.
What do you think about a virtual fence along the border? Is it just keeping up with technology and current trends or is it simply a bad idea? Is it worth investing $30 million or more?