Past Features

October 18, 2017

Trump Wall: Virtual vs. Real?

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Dallas Morning News -- October 18, 2017
As Trump's border plans take shape, critics call for virtual wall
    Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar works in the shadow of the roaring Rio Grande.
    He stands on the banks, looking out at a park where residents play baseball and basketball or picnic with friends and family. With Nuevo Laredo sitting just across the river, Cuellar has a message for President Donald Trump about one of his campaign promises:
    “With all due respect, President Trump, but your wall ain't gonna work here,” said Cuellar, who has worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety tracking down drug smugglers for more than two decades. He's been sheriff for the past nine years.
    Cuellar said environmental issues and the abundance of privately owned land along the border fuel his skepticism. He also says the wall would have an adverse affect on Mexican shoppers who travel back and forth across the border and could devastate the Texas economy.
    Critics in Texas such as Cuellar reiterated their view that the approach by the president and many leading Republicans is the wrong one. Cuellar has long sought $92 million in funding over five years for Operation Border SMART (Strategic Mobile And Response Team), a virtual wall that uses technology and boots on the ground as an alternative to a wall. Cuellar's proposed area for the virtual wall would extend about 300 miles from Starr County in South Texas to Del Rio.
    Business leaders and law enforcement officials on both sides of the border have endorsed Cuellar's idea. Republican Rep. Will Hurd of San Antonio has since proposed bipartisan legislation, calling the idea a “smart wall” to counter sophisticated drug traffickers armed with technology.
     “We need a smart wall to solve our 21st-century problems,” said Hurd, whose district is the longest in Texas --- 800 miles --- stretching from San Antonio to east El Paso. “A wall is an outdated, 19th-century approach that doesn't work anymore.”

Glenn Spencer -- October 18, 2017
Why not start with a virtual wall?
    When I demonstrated my border technology to a Danish Newspaper last year, they were convinced it would make Trump's Wall unnecessary.
   "Glenn Spencer has devoted a quarter of his life to stopping illegal immigrants. Now he has invented a system that makes Donald Trump's wall superfluous.” ---Jyllands-Posten, October 10, 2016
    I complained to Jyllands-Posten that I never made such a claim.
    In terms of preventing illegal border crossers --- the real job of DHS --- it is difficult to say what the best approach is, but one thing is certain --- until we have a system that tells us what works, we may never know.
    Fifteen years ago I set out to find a way to count all border crossers. I ended up with SEIDARM. Coupled with Hermes, a small drone, the system can not only count all border crossers --- it can track and identify them.
    I can envision variations of BORDAS ---- the combination of SEIDARM and Hermes --- that might prevent border crossers, but I am not sure.
    Since a virtual wall could be put in place at a small fraction of a real wall --- and a small fraction of the time --- why not start with one?
    At the very least we will be able to see where a new real wall is needed, and, if one is installed, how well it is doing the job.