On Tuesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano halted further funding for SBInet, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program designed to create a virtual fence of sensors and cameras along the U.S.-Mexico border.  This may be one of those confusing acts of alleged fiscal responsibility that is applauded by liberals and panned by conservatives.

Liberals have never cared for the SBInet program and its commitment to spending billions of dollars to secure our borders. These groups did not support a fence of any kind, whether it was solid concrete and metal or highly advanced sensors and cameras. They will likely hail – albeit quietly and behind closed doors – this reduction of funds as a continued reprioritization of immigration enforcement priorities under the Obama Administration.

At the same time, conservatives who wanted a more physical fence – none of this virtual stuff – never liked SBInet but have grown to accept it as a solid pro-enforcement alternative. They will not accept the halt in spending as a capitulation in efforts to protect our nation, particularly given the recent increase in border violence due to Mexican drug wars.

To be fair, SBInet has not proven to be an overwhelming success since its inception in 2006, but securing our 2,000 mile southern border and preventing smugglers, terrorists, and illegal aliens from entering the country is no small task. Like many large-scale projects that aim to do difficult things, particularly those that strive to incorporate innovative technology, the SBInet program has undergone a variety of setbacks. The underlying purpose of the program was sound. The main contractor, Boeing, and CBP have made great strides in improving the delivered product, and the Border Patrol does benefit from the current expenditures.

But given the shortcomings of the program, it would be premature to completely pan this halt in funding until we actually know what DHS plans to do with the SBInet money. Unfortunately, this may be Secretary Napolitano’s greatest mistake; she has no plan for the money as yet.  Napolitano, in a statement Tuesday, said that the funds will be used for “other tested, commercially available security technology along the southwest border.” What does that mean?  Until we know and can judge whether these other technologies are more effective than those pursued under SBInet, we cannot discount this move as a total abdication of responsibility.

This policy change (and make no mistake, a decision to end your largest Border Security procurement project with no alternative is a policy change) is instructive in two other ways.

First, as I have argued in the past, the importance of border security in the development of a potential Comprehensive Immigration Reform package cannot be overstated. The previous administration invested steadily increasing amounts of money and manpower to better secure our borders to prove to the public that preventing illegal immigration was a priority. Conversely, current plans to reduce spending on big ticket homeland security programs with no plan for how to fill that capability gap do not foster public confidence.

Given the current Administration’s previously established anti-enforcement tactics, this most recent scheme may be too much for a public disinclined to trust Washington with immigration reform. Reinstituting “Catch and Release,” reducing the number of detention beds in use, terminating the use of worksite enforcement actions, and now, prematurely ending SBInet – all steps taken over the last 14 months – are telltale signs that skeptics of reform will be unlikely to miss.

Second, where is the CBP Commissioner during this discussion? While Congress has been distracted with the endless media circus that is ObamaCare, the head of the largest federal law enforcement agency is still waiting for a Senate vote – now 14 months into a new Administration. While the acting head of CBP, Chief of the Border Patrol David Aguilar, is a tremendous leader and law enforcement officer, he is not the proper advocate with the White House and Congress for a billion dollar program like SBInet. Instead, the job of defending SBInet from its detractors has fallen to the Secretary, and given her many other responsibilities and SBInet’s track record, she may have just decided this was one headache she didn’t need any more.

The lasting legacy of this decision will be how it is interpreted when immigration reform begins anew. If Napolitano is serious about using the funds for other more effective projects, the chances of adopting reform increase. But if the public believes this was just one more attempt to make illegal immigration an accepted reality, then reformers will have problems finding support for any legislation.

  • Brittanicus

    Alert! Tell Washington that the pro-amnesty rally does not represent you… or most Americans!

    This weekend will be a historical turning point in the illegal alien occupation of our country. We as Americans can stand back disinterested and watch, or do the right thing for 15 million US jobless labor force that is climbing to new heights? ITS INCORRIGIBLE that our President-Senate-House would try to pass a suspect CIR (AMNESTY) when Americans are hurting. Legal residents who entered the country through the main gate and didn't slither through the darkness past the under manned personnel of the US Border Patrol, should also join our ranks.. This weekend thousands of foreign nationals who are demanding rights to live here, when in the first place they cheated THE PEOPLE'S sovereign laws. They are being bussed to Washington, paid for parasite wealthy corporate owners, faith organizations, scab unions, so called non-profit foundations. BUT WE HAVE A RIGHT AS AMERICANS, TO LOBBY OUR LEGISLATORS. In addition Patriotic Americans are going to jam the switchboards at 202-224-3121. YOU CAN TOO?

    Numbersusa. needs your–URGENT–assistance, whether you are member of the million citizen or resident plus pro-sovereignty anti-illegal immigrant organization. Remember this is a prelude to President Obama's Amnesty, that you will end up paying for as a taxpayer? Billions of your dollars will be committed from your paycheck to pay for processing these people, unifying their family members and the next rush to the borders or airlines, for expecting a third future amnesty. You will not only be squeezed for more money to pay for there health care, for their crippled and sick, but education for there children and incarceration of the criminal element, which has soared. With the legitimized settlement of at least 20 to 30 thousand, that will easily expand to 60 million more as families will be able to join those already here. THIS WILL BE THE BEGINNING OF UNSUSTAINABLE POPULATION GROWTH. THEN THEIR ARE THOSE POOR, DESPERATE, DESTITUTE WHO WILL TRY TO REACH OUR NATION, BEFORE THE NEW LAW IS SIGNED? Wonderful profit margins for businesses, but not for the US Taxpayer. Currently our schools are suffering terribly, crammed to the limit in the Sanctuary State of California. The majority of states right now are overrun by this spreading pandemic of red ink. Costing unaccountable dollars and tenuously balancing government entitlements for our own poverty stricken citizens.

    NumbersUSA is mobilizing there members in assisting in stopping every amnesty since 2000, and now revving up resources to do the same this time around. Starting FRIDAY (3/19) NumbersUSA on Day 1 will be begin a nationwide effort for activists to visit Member's local Congressional offices at 1:30 p.m. EDT with a signed letter.SATURDAY (3/20) — On Day 2, they will launch our faxing and petition campaign. When the Members return to their Washington offices, we need them to see your HUGE RESPONSE. It's also a Social Networking Day, so they want members to join them on Face book and Twitter.SUNDAY (3/21) – Day 3, the pro-amnesty organizers will host their rally on the National Mall in Washington D.C., and many anti-immigration organizations will appear there too. MONDAY (3/22) – Day 4, it's NumbersUSA National Call Campaign. The pro-amnesty supporters will be walking the halls of Congress urging Members to pass an amnesty. So It will be very important for patriotic Americans make their phone calls and have the Capitol office phones ringing incessantly during their visit. Find all this information and more at Numbersusa You can also harass your Senator at 202-224-3121. jamming the switchboards in the capitol.