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International Policy Report: Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security

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by Tom Barry, TransBorder Project, April 2010

The Center for International Policy announces the release of its new report,

Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security, which examines the promises and impact of remote surveillance technologies in the drive by the Department of Homeland Security to secure the border.

Lately, public calls for more "border security" are rising as drug-related killings intensify in Mexico's northern borderlands and fears escalate on the U.S. side of the border that this violence will spill over. Observers of immigration policy say that a secure border is fundamental to passing comprehensive immigration reform.

This report is a cautionary note about the high costs and dubious results of two high-tech fixes for border security: the attempts to construct a "virtual fence" through the Secure Border Initiative and the new enthusiasm for unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the border.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) professes a commitment to protecting the homeland against the entry of "dangerous people and goods." Yet it lacks a strategy that prioritizes actual threats, and its high-tech initiatives are shockingly unfocused and nonstrategic. Despite the vast sums being spent, DHS, through its Secure Border Initiative, points to illegal border crossers and pounds of marijuana captured as its main indicators of success in protecting the homeland.

With little or no in-house technological expertise and with seemingly unlimited funds, DHS has recklessly pursued border security strategies that are not tied to threat assessments and cost-benefit evaluations.

Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security was written by Tom Barry, director of the TransBorder Project of the Center for International Policy.

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