Homeland Security Cancels High Tech Border Fence

The Obama Administration pulled the plug in mid-January, 2011, on a plan to build a high-tech border fence on the United States and Mexico border in Arizona.

The project, which would have cost taxpayers $2.5 billion, involved the installation of sensors and cameras at the U.S.-Mexico border to detect illegal crossers.

The Department of Homeland Defense has been reviewing the plan for the past year, after DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano asked for an assessment of the program to determine its value. Initial results proved poor for the plan, which has been plagued since its inception by cost overruns, technological failures and delays.

The plan took a huge hit in May when a Government Accountability Office determined that the capabilities of the fence had shrunk from the initial plan.

In its place, the DHS plans to implement a new plan comprised of a combination existing, proven technology. It will use mobile surveillance systems, unmanned aircraft and thermal-imaging devices, and will cost $750 million, significantly lower than the cost of the canceled plan. Napolitano said that the new plan will also cover 323 miles of the Arizona border, a dramatic increase from the 53 miles that the canceled plan would have covered.

Funding for the program, known as SBInet, had been frozen since March while the assessment was being carried out.

DHS officials said that some aspects of the SBInet system had been successful in testing, including stationary radar and infrared and optical sensor towers, and may be included in future plans.

Some members of Congress applauded the DHS decision, calling the program “unrealistic” and “long-troubled.” Even Obama’s critics in Congress did not challenge the decision to shut down the project.

“The SBInet program has been a grave and expensive disappointment since its inception,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. “Our committee has held 11 hearings on the project, commissioned five critical GAO reports, all while costing taxpayers nearly $1 billion for only 53 miles of coverage. I am glad that DHS and [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] are finally listening to what we have been saying for years – that the sheer size and variations of our borders show us a one-stop solution has never been best.”

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com