Homeland Security Dept. finishes Virtual Fence

February 22, 2008 7:27:41 PM PST
The Department of Homeland Security says it's high-tech "virtual" fence is finally completely operational, and ready to be extended from Arizona to Texas.

Groups on both sides of the illegal immigration "fence" have their doubts about whether it will work.

Near a Berkeley lumber company, day laborers huddle around waiting for work.

New fences along the border hope to keep them out.

"We've now exceeded 300 miles of fence on our southern border," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

About 28 miles of it -- a so-called virtual fence. On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the final approval of Boeing's $20 million dollar high-tech security system. He says the network of radar, sensors and powerful cameras is already working in Arizona.

"We anticipate going from about six to 40 ground based mobile surveillance systems throughout the border this coming calendar year. All of this is part of an integrated, high tech approach to the border," said Chertoff.

Immigrant rights advocates say any fence is a dangerous approach.

"The strategy of the wall, the virtual and actual wall is to funnel people into the most desolate and isolated regions of the desert and risk their lives," said Arnoldo Garcia from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

"Controlling any border in any state in the nation is dangerous and for the people that are complaining, that's their job," said Huey Johnson from Diversity Alliance for a sustainable America.

Huey Johnson sits on the board of directors for Diversity Alliance, a group that views illegal immigration in terms of population growth and its strain on economic and natural resources.

"We always think we can be a sponge. This fence may be useful in a sense that it's a small move toward dealing with the problem but still insignificant," said Johnson.

"The solution is very simple. You have a great demand and to satisfy the demand, you don't build more walls, you issue more visas," said Garcia.

Michael Chertoff says what we will see more of is, border agents -- almost 3,000 more by the end of the year. And he also says thanks to the Dept. of Justice's Operation Streamline, the number of illegals being prosecuted is up ? 1,200 cases in the last quarter.