High-Tech Solution to Border Problems Ignored

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U.S.-MEXICO BORDER -- Government spending to secure the United States' southern border with Mexico has surged since 9/11 with mixed results.

The number of illegal immigrants in the United States is down, while drug smuggling has only gotten worse.

John Ladd works on the same Arizona ranch his family has owned since 1896. His 14,000-acre lot includes 10 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Out there, you don't have to look far to see the effects of illegal immigration.

"I've had a group of people, at least one group a day since Thanksgiving. I've been robbed, I've had them in the house," Ladd told CBN News.

But migrant workers aren't the real problem. What worries Ladd most is the drugs crossing onto his land.

"We've had five drive-thrus with 14 trucks total since February of this year," he said.

According to government estimates, only about 15 percent of those illegally crossing the border are caught. And the fence isn't making much of a difference.

"This has been a smugglers point for a hundred years. They cut the mesh out at the bottom and the side and across the top, and then they open it up and ramp over," Ladd explained. "This is a little bit better than a seven strand barbed wire fence, but not much."

Hi-Tech Possibilities

Arlington, Texas, is home of the Cowboys stadium, and one of the most technologically advanced municipalities in the country.

CBN News met a man there who developed the security system for the Super Bowl, and may also hold the key to securing the southern border.

"The fence is a wonderful tool if you want to stop wildlife, if you want to stop livestock, if you want to stop somebody for 30 seconds," Dan Hammons, owner of Hammons Enterprises, explained.

"We think the border needs to be a line in the sand as opposed to a wide area," he added.

"If a person crawls over that fence or crosses that border illegally, we have a wide array of sensing technologies that will set off an alarm and will turn on a camera on a node tower," Hammons said. "So you can determine, is it a person, is it a deer, is it a cow."

"With our system, I'm confident that we are going to detect 100 percent of the people crossing that border illegally," he boldly claimed.

Key Benefits

Hammons' system also costs about $1 million less per mile than a border fence. While there are already many cameras on the border, there is a major difference in this network: bandwidth.

"We don't have to compress high-definition video. We can pump thousands of video streams thousands of miles, and you are looking at it in true real time," Hammons explained.

"So it gives us the ability in a border environment to actually track somebody with a video camera all of the time for as far north as we want to go," he said.

The objective is to give U.S. Border Patrol more accurate and timely information, which in turn keeps them safe.

"We're going to add a layer of safety for these men and women that are on the border every day putting their lives at risk," Hammons said. "We're not going to send one person to apprehend a group of people armed with AK-47s."

Ladd loves the idea because of the accuracy and timeliness that Hammons' system could provide.

"Absolutely in favor of that technology, but yet we can't seem to come to terms that that's the way to do it," Ladd said. "And so we depend on a 10-foot wall that an old woman can climb over with help."

"On our ranch… the length of it, you could have one guy sitting at a computer module and he'd be able to monitor that whole 10-and-a-half miles. One person!" Ladd continued.

Government Cold Shoulder

Still, decision makers in Washington have repeatedly turned down Hammons' ideas.

"They have shut the door in our face," he said.

"We offered to do this for them for free. We wanted to build a three-mile section of it for free. No cost or obligation to the government, all we wanted was an operational evaluation," Hammons recalled.

He hinted that the system's potential may be viewed by some as a political problem.

"We're going to be able to tell the truth about what's going on on the border," Hammons said. "We're going to be able to show the American public exactly what is happening down there."

In the meantime, ranchers along Arizona's border feel like they're stuck in a war zone.

"Regardless of what Homeland Security and Border Patrol says, the border isn't as safe as it's ever been," Ladd said. "There's more drugs coming right now than ever before."

"A guy driving a Border Patrol truck up and down the fence isn't going to cut it," he added.

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