Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A thought about measuring border security

According to NumbersUSA:
The United States has two international land borders: our northern border with Canada and our southern border with Mexico. The U.S.-Canada border is over 5,500 miles long and it is the longest, least militarized international border in the world. The U.S.-Mexico border is nearly 2,000 miles long and crossed more frequently than any other international border. Our northern border is sparsely protected and gives potential illegal aliens easy entry into the United States. The U.S.-Mexico border, although better protected, allows foreign nationals to easily enter the United States illegally.
According to NOAA the Atlantic coastline is 2069 miles long, the Pacific coastline including Alaska is 7,623 miles long, the Arctic coastline of Alaska is 1,060 miles long, and the Gulf Coast coastline is 1631 miles long. Of course there is legitimate shipping arriving at the many U.S. ports, but the coastlines are also possible entry points for small crafts from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean nations. That does not count coastlines of Islands belonging to the United States.

The federal government expected more than 66 million international travelers would visit the United States in 2012. That number includes tourists, and international tourism is big business contributing significantly to reduce the U.S. balance of payments problem. But there are also many people who visit the United States each year on business. People who arrive legitimately, often with valid visas, sometimes overstay their permits and become illegal immigrants.

Benchmarks for Border Security

Republicans, in the discussions of reform of immigration law, are calling for improved measures of border security with defined benchmarks for the performance of the Department of Homeland Security. It will not be simple to define appropriate indicators nor to make the measurements. It may not be a good idea to publish the information. Indeed, given the rate of change of technology, it may be important to plan for continuing improvement of measures to monitor border transgressions.

Monitoring thousands of miles of land border and thousands of miles of coastline is obviously a huge task. So too is monitoring tens of millions of visitors. Both tasks are complicated by the fact that the people the government is most interested in monitoring may be taking evasive measures to evade being seen and being followed. Recall that tunnels have been dug under the border, and that there are professional smugglers who specialize in bringing in illegal aliens at night and avoiding surveillance.

Telling those seeking illegal entry exactly how their movements will be monitored obviously may help them to evade the monitoring, and so is a bad idea.

There has been a significant development of drone based remote sensing and computer processing to monitor movements on the ground, largely done to support the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other insurgencies. Similarly, intelligence agencies have developed advanced technologies to capture and analyze electronic signals, including Internet and telephone messaging. I can only suppose that the details of this technology are held as state secrets.

One can imagine lighter than air craft that might be stationed permanently over borders with complex detection technology. So too, one could imagine radio frequency identification chips being added to luggage or clothing to monitor visitor location, not to mention monitoring of cell phone locations. Indeed, I could imagine hawks and dogs being trained to patrol the borders, eagles and dolphins to patrol the coasts identifying to border patrol possible illegal crossing. One would not want to preclude future technology improvement by freezing technology in legislation that would soon be outdated.

I suspect that some of the focus on measures and benchmarks is not only misguided, but intended to militate against getting a good law. The ideal is the enemy of the good!

1 comment:

judi bola said...

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