In what is obviously a textbook example of art imitating life, President Bush signed the Secure Fences Act of 2006 five months before the television show Lost introduced its high-frequency sonar fence. One was a government-funded fence to keep brown people out; the other was a privately-funded fence to keep a black smoke monster out. One was dubbed a “virtual fence” using experimental technology to combine cameras, radar, and sensors; the other was fiction.
Despite the somewhat amateurish, Dharma Initiative-esque efforts of groups like Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and the American Border Patrol to build fences and patrol our borders as private citizens, securing our borders is obviously a responsibility of the federal government. And since 83% of Republicans say that “border control is the top priority of any immigration reform effort,” Republicans clearly want the federal government actively securing our borders.
Traditionally, calls to secure our borders focused on illegal immigration and on the flow of illegal drugs from Latin America. However, after 9/11, border security became more of a national security issue and the U.S. Border Patrol’s website now states that, “The priority mission of the Border Patrol is preventing terrorists and terrorists weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from entering the United States.”
Consequently, government growth and spending on border security took off during the early-to-mid 2000’s, notably when Republicans had control of the White House and both houses of Congress. For example:
- Federal funding for border security doubled from $4.6 billion in 2001 to $10.4 billion in 2006.
- From 2000-2009, the number of federal border patrol agents increased from 9,000 to 20,000, an increase of 11,000 government employees.
- The Secure Fences Act authorized spending $1.2 billion to build 700 miles of physical barriers along the roughly 2,000 mile Mexico-United States border (the remaining two-thirds of the border was to be separated by a “virtual fence”).
Now, there have been some recent disagreements among Republicans about some of these expenditures, specifically the border fence with Mexico. After dramatically changing its composition and scale, in May of this year President Obama said the fence is “now basically complete.” This drew sharp rebukes from some Republicans — such as Jim DeMint (R-SC) — who feel the vast majority of the 700 mile fence has not been built up-to-snuff and are pushing the federal government to make the entire fence “double-layered.” However, a few of the major Republican presidential candidates — including Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman — dismiss the fence idea as impractical.
However, I sort of feel that these differences of opinion between Republicans could be sorted out if we just had access to the right technology. Imagine if we could construct a high-frequency sonar fence, á la Lost? Republican politicians would be tripping over themselves to secure federal funding for 2,000 miles of it, deficits and debt ceilings be damned.
Of course, it still wouldn’t be full proof. As then Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano once said, “You show me a 50-foot wall and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.” Furthermore, I’m fairly certain Napolitano’s comments and this scene from Lost have provided a detailed blueprint for how to get around any border fence, no matter how technologically sophisticated it is. See for yourself.