Still Trying To “Fence Us In”


I’ve busted on the “Moonie Times” a lot for towing the corporatist Republican line, but kudos to them actually for some first-class reporting here (including the following)…

A multibillion-dollar “virtual fence” along the southwestern border promised for completion in 2009 to protect the U.S. from terrorists, violent drug smugglers and a flood of illegal immigrants is a long way from becoming a reality, with government officials unable to say when, how or whether it will ever be completed.

More than three years after launching a major border security initiative and forking over more than $1 billion to the Boeing Co., the project’s major contractor, Homeland Security Department officials are re-evaluating the high-tech component of the plan in the wake of a series of critical Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports warning lawmakers that the expensive undertaking is deeply flawed.

The program now places the Obama administration in a quandary, foretold by lawmakers who witnessed Boeing and Homeland Security publicly mischaracterize the nature of the contract, according to GAO, after government officials, watchdogs and contractors privately discovered that it was destined to fail.

“Regrettably, the partnership between [Homeland Security] and Boeing has produced far more missed deadlines and excuses than results,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in September 2008. “It will become the 44th president’s problem.”

And as the New York Times told us in April 2008 (here)…

To the long list of things the Bush administration is willing to trash in its rush to appease immigration hard-liners, you can now add dozens of important environmental laws and hundreds of thousands of acres of fragile habitat on the southern border.

On Tuesday, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, waived the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections to allow the government to finish building 700 or so miles of border fence by year’s end without undertaking legally mandated reviews of the consequences for threatened wildlife and their habitats.

Will this stop or slow illegal immigration? No. Long experience has shown that billions of barricade-building dollars will simply shift some of the flow to more remote parts of the 2,000-mile southern border. And no amount of border fence will keep out the 40 percent of illegal immigrants who enter legally then stay too long.

And as the New York Times reminds us, Chertoff was given the authority to waive all environmental protections through a pesky little Subsection (102) of the Real ID Act.

Back to the Washington Times article…

Early on, GAO found that Boeing had failed to show how the $1.1 billion high-tech system would meet the objectives of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), a comprehensive, multiyear, $4 billion Homeland Security proposal to secure the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, and urged revisions to the company’s lucrative contract.

Despite such warnings, based on GAO’s detailed evaluations of the root causes of major problems, the goals of the high-tech project, dubbed “SBInet,” were not realized and deadlines were pushed back. In September, GAO reported to Congress that the virtual fence scheduled for completion in 2009 will not be ready until at least 2016 — if it goes forward at all.

And in conclusion, I give you the following from this Time Magazine article on Obama’s swearing-in day last year…

“The wall will surely hurt American interests all across the Americas for a whole generation,” wrote State Representative Elliott Shapleigh, a Democrat and a fifth-generation El Pasoan, in a recent Op-Ed. “Is it too much too soon to ask that this wall come down or is it the right thing to do at the right time in history? If not now, when? If not under President-elect Barack Obama, then who?”

Who indeed?

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