Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Myth of Border Security – “The Speech, pt 2”


Some years back, there was a nation with a real thing for secure borders. They didn’t just want to control who came in, but also who left the country. Walls, fences, barbed wire, land mines, attack dogs, armed guards, you get the idea. After the fall of the Soviet Union, this nation continued the same policy of border control. Despite this, the nation has been dragged into a bitter and bloody conflict over one of its provinces, from which terrorists have killed hundreds of innocents by coming across borders guarded by armed forces. Russia stands as a clear warning, against the fairy tale that a long border can be completely secure. The best option is to functionally control the border against a specific threat. When we discuss the matter of the border between the United States and Mexico, we have to step back from the angry shouting, and sort out what we need to do most, determine what options can best address that, and provide for the cost in money and resources which must be provided.

The border between the United States and Mexico is two thousand miles long, and includes many places which are very difficult to patrol and monitor. This, by the way, is why President Bush made such an emphasis on the “virtual” fence – those angry ranters who will accept nothing but a brick wall along the lines of the one we disliked in Berlin, don’t have a very good idea of the conditions in some places, the habit of some people to tunnel under the border, or the fact that any wall/fence can be and has been climbed over, cut through or dug under – to control a border you need an effective way to see more than one dimension, and to direct patrols for quick interceptions. Bush has spent more resources on physical fences and supported more work on interception resources than any President in history, but he knows – he’s lived down here, you know – that we need to use more effective methods, especially tools which the most dangerous border crossers, like the gangs and the smugglers, do not have and cannot easily evade. A predator with IR scanning is a better answer to this problem than even a mile of brick wall.

The best way to treat this problem is a layered approach. First, we need to see people before they get to the border, which reinforces the value of airborne surveillance. That same layer would track people from detection to either deterrence or interception, and the process for that stage is already in development. The second layer would be to watch for new arrivals in border towns; people just across will want food and rest, and there are processes in development to see who arrives where they are not expected. And third, we need to pursue intruders who wish to move inland. This is probably the weakest link in the present system; it puts everything in the front sections, so that someone who can get through the first couple days often finds it easier as they move farther in. Unfortunately, this is exactly the way that sleeper cells for a terrorist group would also move in, to reach target locations using the convenient and largely unsecured highway network. A national system of freeway monitors is being developed however, using extant systems like TRANSTAR in combination with high-speed element profile programs at places like the NRO, to find vehicles which are out of place; things like unusual weight, out-of-state/country plates, or unusual levels of occupancy will trigger closer inspection, possibly a stop by a police officer. This is already how border states catch trucks with human cargo, and how we hope to intercept more dangerous traffic. People tend to drive in the manner where they learned, and so non-American drivers tend to stand out in their actions, compared to natives.

In conclusion for this article, the issue of Border Control is probably the most worrisome in the whole matter. However, the actions of the DHS in the past 4+ years have been largely productive, but also largely invisible. If Congress is willing to work with the White House, control of the borders can continue to be improved, especially by creating a consistent policy with adequate resources.

Next - Pt 3, Alien Entry Protocols


Rich said...

One external indication that the border proposal might be effective is the reaction of the Mexican government. They threaten to sue in our courts because they believe that it will be effective and not because it won't.

Being slightly off topic I heard an interview with Senator Sessions on NPR this morning that mentioned there was an amendment that passed that dealt with his concerns about the number of legal immigrants the new law would allow. While he wasn't happy that the amendment which required the border fixed before guest workers failed, he was happy that the Feinstein/Bingaman amendment passed 79-18. This amendment reduced the low skill visas from 325,000 to 200,000 and removed the automatic escalator.

H1B levels have yet to be voted on. Senator Feinstein wants more caps here, also. I believe that is being short-sighted. Low H1B levels actually causes outsourcing from what I have seen inside my high-tech company. The people who had trouble going through the H1B hoops we simply hired back in their home country for a lot less money. It's not worth it because it's a PITA working with people who are 12 hours out of sync with you but that's what our broken H1B system forces us to do.

If more of the critics were like Senator Sessions I would have much less problems with them. He sees a problem with a bill and he finds a solution. Unlike the Rabies Republicans Senator Sessions was also pleased with the President's speech saying it "moved the ball forward" and "allayed fears" that the President wasn't concerned about border security.

The sense I get from Senators on both sides of the aisle are that the tough votes are behind them. The open question is will we get a bill out of conference.

Rich said...

When I used the words "my company" it didn't mean I owned the company but rather the company I work for.

David from Abilene said...

I feel that as a west Texas resident with some expirience in this matter that DJ has the most reasoned approach. I also feel that the House has the right idea of inforcement first. The Senate is just trolling for votes. The best way to tackle the problem is a multi-pronged strategy that also targets the incentive to get to the U.S. as well as employers and social programs along with a virtual fence.

northeastconservative said...

I remain deeply concerned about the senate bill and the immigration numbers spoken of by senator Sessions.

Waiting to see what happens....hope we don't lose our majorities in the house and senate in the process. I am furious that each of the last several election cycles we have squandered golden opportunities to pick up more seats...

MG3 said...


Your post made me think of two examples of success and failure from World War II.

First, the success of England in the Battle of Britain where the British used radar to see where the German bombers were coming in and sent the Spitfires and Hurricanes to those locations. Hit'em where they are, so to speak.

Second, an example of failure, was Rommel's strategy at Normandy to put the majority of his troops to stop the invasion at the beach. A wall, in other words. The Siegried Line is another example.

I don't know if Patton actually said this, but it was in the movie, "fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupity of man, if the oceans and mountains can be overcome, so can anything built by man".

Harold C. Hutchison said...

The only people who benefit from a fence will be the government contractors who build it - and the workers who get union wages to do so under the Davis-Bacon Act.

Increasing the Border Patrol and using UAVs and other technology-based solutions, would do far more.

But lowering the caps is not the answer, either, particularly if they are hard caps without an escalator. It's like a software company ignoring massive demand for its product, by not ramping up production. It will lead to widespread piracy, and that will ultimately undermine the company.

USMC Pilot said...

Boarder security would be a non issue if we simply issued a non forgable work permit to any Mexican who wanted to come here to work. It would have a time period attached to it, and would carry no rights to citizenship. They would have to return to Mexico after a certain period of time (ie: the permit would expire), unless an employer verified a need for their continued employment. The permit could also contain finger prints, which could be verified by the employers over the internet , using an inexpensive finger print reader.

We must include the ones already here, since it is impracticle to return all of them to Mexico, and many are at this point critical to their employers. We simply can not fill 12 million jobs with the 6 million American who are listed as unemployed, however, I seriously doubt that there are that many realy looking for work.

republicanpundit said...

Anything the senate passes will be abrogated by the house.

The house is the leader on this one.

Gabriel said...

yeah so productive upwards of 3 million illegals have managed to sneak past.

you and your analysis are a joke.

DanO said...

Missed you at PoliPundit. Found you here. Good.

What I am glad to see is that some people are separating the issue of border control from the issue of those already here. I say, control the bleeding, then we can talk about how to bring the fever down. First things first.

Dave said...

I think some of the furor is that most of us bloggerati don't know what's already there in terms of physical walls.

I still wouldn't be too upset at a TVA-style "down to the bedrock, up 30 stories" wall... but if I and the 'angry right' of the public knew what was there, and what was going where, we'd probably be a little less annoyed.

The Listkeeper said...

It would help even more if people realized that the reason a lot of people like myself support the V-Fence concept is because we know just how effective such systems are when compared to physical fences. Fences that aren't intensely manned are easily overcome by a determined intruder... The V-Fence isn't, because you can't climb over, dig under, or go around a thorough net of geophones, microwave personnel sensors, and FLIR cameras...and NOBODY can outrun Motorola.