New York Post columnist Rich Lowry and The Washington Examiner defended the controversial new Arizona immigration law by suggesting the state was forced to act because the Obama administration was not enforcing immigration policies; specifically, citing frozen funding for a virtual border fence. However, the administration reportedly stopped funding the virtual fence because it was over-budget, behind schedule, and a "complete failure," and the administration has redirected money to "other tested, commercially available security technology along the Southwest border."
Lowry, Wash. Examiner cite virtual fence defunding as evidence of soft immigration policies
Lowry: Washington "refuses" to enforce the border; the Obama administration "ceased constructing" the virtual fence. In an April 27 New York Post column, Lowry wrote that "Arizona's offense is to attempt to enforce the nation's immigration laws, in the absence of any serious commitment to do so on the part of the federal government or our political class." Lowry wrote of undocumented immigrants: "It's much better to endeavor to stop them at the southern border, something Washington still refuses to do. During the last eruption of the national immigration debate, Congress passed a law mandating a fence along the border. The Bush administration bid it down to a high-tech 'virtual fence.' And the Obama administration has ceased constructing even that."
Washington Examiner: "Previously, Napolitano stopped construction of the 'virtual fence' that was supposed to make the border safe." An April 27 Washington Examiner editorial stated: "Instead of finally cracking down on this clear threat to national security, Obama has ordered officials in the Justice Department -- the same people who ignored Black Panther voter intimidation in Philadelphia -- to assess the constitutionality of the new Arizona law. Previously, [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano stopped construction of the 'virtual fence' that was supposed to make the border safe. Obama has also refused requests from the states to send more National Guard troops to protect the border."
Napolitano halted virtual fence funding over cost, viability concerns
GAO report found "significant" defects in the system. The Government Accountability Office issued a January report about the project, called SBInet, concluding in part that "the number of new defects identified [were] generally increasing faster than the number being fixed -- a trend that is not indicative of a system that is maturing" and that "several of the defects that have been found have been significant." It also found that "changes made to system qualification test cases and procedures appeared to be designed to pass the test instead of being designed to qualify the system."
NY Times: Despite $1 billion price tag, "little to show for it beyond the two testing sites in the Arizona desert and a series of embarrassments." The New York Times reported on March 16 that "[c]iting a plague of 'cost overruns and missed deadlines,' Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that she would cut millions of dollars intended for a high-tech 'virtual fence' along the Mexican border that has produced little more than headaches for the federal government." From the article:
Ms. Napolitano's announcement came two days before a scheduled Congressional hearing on the program. The House Homeland Security Committee is expected to receive the latest in a string of Government Accountability Office reports calling the program into question. That new report says tests designed to evaluate the system are flawed and mismanaged.
The virtual fence is part of a multiyear, multibillion-dollar effort known as the Secure Border Initiative [SBInet] that was announced with fanfare by the Bush administration in November 2005. Besides increasing the number of guards and expanding a border wall, it promised a sophisticated system of cameras, sensors and radar that would zero in on people crossing the border with new speed and clarity and quickly guide agents to them.
By now, according to the original timeline, the system was supposed to be working along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. But shortly after Boeing was awarded the contract, red flags went up over its lack of oversight and potential for cost overruns.
Boeing said in a statement on Tuesday that it was "fully committed to delivering border-security technology that successfully assists" the department, but it declined to answer questions about its handling of the project. About $1.1 billion has been spent on the virtual fence, with little to show for it beyond the two testing sites in the Arizona desert and a series of embarrassments, including radar that could not function properly in the rain and wind-blown trees mistaken for border crossers.
Napolitano: "Not only do we have an obligation to secure our borders, we have a responsibility to do so in the most cost effective way possible." In her March 16 statement, Napolitano said: "Not only do we have an obligation to secure our borders, we have a responsibility to do so in the most cost effective way possible. The system of sensors and cameras along the Southwest border known as SBInet has been plagued with cost overruns and missed deadlines. Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will redeploy $50 million of Recovery Act funding originally allocated for the SBInet Block 1 to other tested, commercially available security technology along the Southwest border, including mobile surveillance, thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and remote video surveillance system enhancements. Additionally, we are freezing all SBInet funding beyond SBInet Block 1's initial deployment to the Tucson and Ajo regions until the assessment I ordered in January is completed."
McCain: "I have been calling for Congressional oversight and Administrative action on this issue since it became clear that SBInet was a complete failure." In a March 16 statement, Sen. John McCain said he was "pleased" with Napolitano's decision to halt funding: "After spending over $1 billion of taxpayers' dollars on a failed system of sensors and cameras along the Southwest border, known as SBInet, I am pleased that Secretary Napolitano has decided to instead turn to commercially available technology that can be used to immediately secure our border from illegal entries. I have been calling for Congressional oversight and Administrative action on this issue since it became clear that SBInet was a complete failure."