Border activist wants cameras, sensors to count crossers

By Jonathon Shacat -- Sierra Vista Herald/Review– July 18, 2010

Glenn Spencer, president of the non-governmental border watch group American Border Patrol, is proposing a way to help measure success at the border.

He is seeking support from the state government to implement the “Arizona border assessment system.” The project would determine the number of illegal immigrants who are entering the state between ports of entry.

The Secure Fence Act essentially says the job of the Department of Homeland Security is to prevent all illegal crossings. But, he said, that goal is too difficult to attain because it impossible to reach perfection. It would be better to pick a more realistic figure.

“Let's say everybody agrees that the border is secure when no more than 20,000 people get past the Border Patrol each year,” he said.

Spencer proposes a comprehensive system consisting of sensors, cameras and aerial surveillance near the Arizona-Mexico border to basically county people heading north and south. The data would be summarized in a monthly report.

“I am telling you, this is doable,” he said.

He acknowledged the federal government does not want to admit that many illegal immigrants are not caught. Public information officials at the U.S Border Patrol's Tucson sector did not respond to a request for comment.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 556,041 in fiscal year 2009, compared with 723,825 during fiscal year 2008. That represents a 23 percent decrease.

U.S. Border Patrol does not keep records of the number of individuals who get away. But, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, the number of illegal immigrants in the United States in 2008 was estimated at 11 million.

“The governor could take the initiative away from the Obama administration by suggesting a positive step in order to toward the point where we can debate the immigration issue,” he said.

Paul Senseman, a spokesman for the governor's office, said there are many thoughtful suggestions on border security that have been offered and can be considered by state officials.

“One key item that would need to be reviewed on this proposal is the ownership of the lands on the Arizona border. State ownership is very limited here, so it is possibly a proposal that would require federal approval, not state approval,” he said.

“Unfortunately, unless the federal government, and specifically President Obama and his supporters that control the majority in Congress decide to the secure the border, we will likely continue to have a border crisis,” he continued.

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