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A real fence for a real problem
By Colin A. Hanna
COLIN A. HANNA is president of Let Freedom Ring Inc. and

March 17, 2006

THE U.S. SENATE is about to fumble an opportunity to take meaningful action on border security. The latest threat to an effective border security system is the claim that we no longer need to build a physical fence — that we can do the job with a "virtual fence." This is a dangerous premise.

Who doesn't want to use the latest technology? But the notion that cameras mounted on Predator drones preclude the need for physical barriers should be dismissed as absurd on its face. Yet that is exactly what several senators are promoting.

A fence is a barrier. A virtual fence only offers a new way to detect people. But the proponents of a virtual fence are indifferent to the facts.

Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) recently said: "We need to invest in technology, heat sensors and a virtual fence — unmanned drones that can patrol the border and use infrared sensors to detect people crossing at night."

And Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is supporting a virtual fence providing electronic monitoring along the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

To the extent that a virtual fence could be deployed, it would require at least 150,000 border agents — four shifts of 15 patrol agents per mile plus support personnel — to effectively apprehend the illegal aliens detected by cameras, motion sensors, drones and heat sensors. This is extremely impractical and cost prohibitive; we currently have only 11,000 active border agents.

The virtual fence option would only track — not prevent — illegal immigrants from entering the country. Even if we could apprehend a great number of them, that would put into motion an expensive deportation process, with taxpayers footing the bill.

The construction of a secure physical barrier along the southern border of the U.S. is an absolutely necessary component to any truly comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Nearly 70% of Americans who responded to a study — supported by — believe that a secure physical barrier combined with a sensible worker program is the most humane solution to our current dilemma. The House has already passed a bill that mandates 700 miles of border fencing.

We at WeNeedAFence have proposed a border security system consisting of six parallel physical barriers, plus a patrol road with effective detection devices. It is based on the highly effective Israeli fences in the West Bank and in Gaza. At 40 yards wide at minimum, such a system cannot easily be climbed over, tunneled under, cut through or rammed through without triggering devices that will alert mobile agents in time to thwart the attempted intrusion. We also propose up to 200 legal crossing points and patrol stations so that trade, commerce, tourism and legal immigration are not affected.

Such a system would cost far less than securing the border with manpower alone or providing medical and social services to illegal immigrants. In short, we need a fence, not a farce.