State Senate Panel Votes for $30 Million Virtual Border Fence

Mar 26, 2014

A Senate panel voted Tuesday to take the first steps to having taxpayers spend $30 million to build a virtual border fence. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

The Arizona border fence
Credit Michael Chow, AP

Sen. Bob Worsley wants the state build 300 towers along the southern border and outfit them with cameras and radar. Worsley said while the video feed would be available to law enforcement, the real aim is more political. He said Republican members of Congress have told the Obama administration they will support comprehensive immigration reform only when the border is secured. And that, said Worsley, has to be confirmed by those in the border states.

“How do we confirm to the federal government that, in fact, the border is secure if we don’t trust them and we don’t have any mechanism to verify that, in fact, the border has reached operational control?” Worsley asked.

Worsley said his virtual fence is inexpensive enough to provide that verification. But, Sen. Chester Crandell said the system amounts to little more than a glorified video system allowing Arizonans to keep an eye themselves on the border “and see who’s coming across and who’s not coming across.”

“It’s not the state’s responsibility to determine whether the border is secure or not. It’s the federal government’s responsibility as specified in the Constitution. That is their job. That is their responsibility,” Crandell said.

And, Crandell called the $30 million price tag, in his words, a pretty huge chunk of money that could go to education.