November 21, 2007
Border webcams to come online again

Remember the border webcams that were piloted last year, then went away because there was no money for them? Well, Governor Perry thinks he has found funds for them now.

Gov. Rick Perry has identified $3 million in federal funding to restore a short-lived but highly publicized "virtual border watch" program that allows Internet users to access video feeds from cameras set up along the border.

As early as January, viewers might have access to feeds from some of the 200 cameras strategically located along the Texas-Mexico border. They'll be able to alert authorities if they think they see immigrants illegally crossing the border.

Perry sought out more funding after seeing the benefits of a monthlong, $200,000 pilot of the program in late 2006, said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for the governor's office.

"We know these cameras secured our borders," she said. "We want to get them up and running as soon as possible."

The governor first mentioned the program during his 2006 re-election bid but failed to win approval from lawmakers during the last session.

The project, one of several measures intended to curb the flow of illegal immigration in Texas, is the first of its kind to be sponsored by a state government.

Among the other steps being taken in Texas: Constructing a 700-mile border fence, hiring more border patrol agents and launching a zero-tolerance policy to detain, rather than simply deport, all illegal immigrants caught near Laredo.


Supporters say this type of "virtual wall" might be more practical and less costly than a 700-mile border fence.

"It's great to use technology to try to enforce our immigration laws rather than a fence that costs up to $3 million a mile," said El Paso Mayor John Cook. "You can put up a whole lot more cameras for $3 million."


State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said border security and immigration have become overblown political wedge issues. Cameras, he said, may be less imposing than a border fence, but both are responses to an issue grounded in politics rather than reality.

"Is this really about securing our borders," he asked, "or about some Americans' feelings about Mexicans?"

If my only choices are between that stupid border fence and a bunch of webcams, I'll gladly pick the latter, as it might actually be a cost-effective method of keeping an eye on the border. For sure, though, however much you think illegal immigration is an issue, this is really just a small part of it. A whole lot of undocumented folks entered the country on visas, then simply stayed past their expiration dates. If there were even a tenth of the energy devoted to dealing with that as there is to building fences and "securing" borders (one border, anyway), I might take take this issue seriously. As things actually stand, I think Rep. Coleman has pegged it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 21, 2007 to National news

I'm curious about the source of the funds that are now available.

Posted by: ryan on November 21, 2007 9:36 AM

A whole lot of undocumented folks entered the country on visas, then simply stayed past their expiration dates.

According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center the number of overstays is a little less than 50% of all undocumented workers (link).

Posted by: blank on November 25, 2007 9:48 AM