On May 10, 2011 – 4 years and 4 months ago – President Obama declared the border fence with Mexico was “now basically complete.” Recently, the DHS – under questioning from Senator Cruz – stated that 36.3 miles of double-fencing had been built, along with existing or fairly recently built fencing of various types: 299.8 miles of vehicle fence; and 316.6 miles of pedestrian fence. That adds up to 652.7 miles of fencing – some of it hardly imposing – out of a total length of 1,954 miles. So, they’re some open border still left to fence. But not even the security experts at the DHS seem to really want to build much effective fencing. Reading the House’s 2012 Committee on Homeland Security’s report – Blueprint for Southern Border Security – one gets the feeling that the experts want lots of high-tech toys rather than spend on an old-fashioned fence. The cost of that fencing runs at about $7 million a mile. That would be just under $4 thousand a yard. Assuming the full 700 missing miles were built, the cost adds up to around $11 billion.

So why not spend the money on sensors and drones and other expensive gear to track and round up illegals in real time? A fence is so eighties, please. And rather un-holistic as well. Some of the technology will, (or has), come from Israeli companies who have evolved their products and systems in a hot and dangerous area of the world, even more hot and dangerous than the drug-war-ravaged areas of northern Mexico like Juarez, as well as the border zone itself. The projected costs are multiples of the humble double fence that occupies a mere 36.3 miles. One wonders, however, if the two approaches – high tech gear, and low-tech fencing – are somehow at odds. Wouldn’t it be truly “holistic” for a sturdy double fence to provide the initial disincentive, and the high-tech sensors and drones to provide back-up and depth and a real-time coverage? The humble fence is continually subject to scrutiny and ridicule and you-just-can’t-do-that criticisms. How about shining a little of that heat and light on the high-tech gear to make sure that voters get their money’s worth as the tens of billions are spent to secure the border? And just maybe, the humble fence will prove a valuable investment.