Congress To Hold Hearing Tomorrow On “Virtual Fence”

March 9, 2009 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to examine the status of the “virtual fence,” a system of cameras and radar devices designed to monitor illegal border crossings. The hearing, entitled, “Secure Border Initiative and Control of the Land Border,” will address problems confronting the construction of the “fence” which is part of the Secure Border Initiative Network, a Department of Homeland Security endeavor that has been in the works for more than a decade.

The American Civil Liberties Union has long opposed the virtual fence initiative, citing the intrusion into the private lives of Americans and the wasteful use of limited homeland security resources. It subjects Americans who live near the border to constant surveillance, infringing upon their constitutional right to privacy. The looming guard towers are a constant reminder that local residents are being monitored, regardless of their innocence.

In addition, the extreme conditions at both the northern and southern borders cause the technology of the “virtual fence” to break down, rendering it unreliable for combating illegal border crossings, while the ongoing implementation has put it billions of dollars over budget, with only more expenses to come. The ACLU is calling on Congress to finally drop this wasteful and problematic project and instead employ border and immigration policies that have been proven both effective and respectful of Americans’ liberties.

The following can be attributed to Timothy Sparapani, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

“The ‘virtual fence’ is not only ‘virtual,’ but it is basically non-existent. On the other hand, after more than a dozen years, the privacy violations and the billions of wasted dollars spent on this project are very real. It is time Congress protected Americans’ civil liberties and saved taxpayers a whole lot of money by terminating this ineffective program.”

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