Arizona Capitol

Arizona Virtual Border Fence Again Goes Without Major Funding

A bill that would have used $10 million in state funding to build a virtual border fence in Arizona was passed by the state Senate yesterday, but not before the $10 million was stripped from the bill.

Republican Senators Bob Worsley and Steve Smith have been trying for a couple years now to get this project up and running, which Worsley has said is a way for authorities to "trust but verify" that Border Patrol agents are catching unauthorized migrants walking over the border.

Worsley said the funding was stripped this year as "I understand we have a tight budget year."

See also: -Proposed $30 Million "Virtual Border Fence" Would Allow Public Monitoring

The "fence" is actually a system of radar towers that are able to sense foot traffic in its range. Worsley told a Senate committee last month that they would need 250 towers, or one about every 1.5 miles.

The bill passed last year without funding, but authorized the idea if the funding came around. This year's bill also doesn't come with major funding, but does correct a crucial problem. The initial law called for the fence to be placed within one mile of the border, which would create all kinds of problems between land that's federally owned, privately owned, or belonging to Native American tribes.

The new bill changes the language to be placed as close as possible to the border, and the proposed locations don't make it that close to the border in many areas. This image is from a presentation Worsley gave to fellow lawmakers:

This latest version of the bill also takes advantage of a small funding source. A few years ago, Smith spearheaded an effort to build a physical fence along the state's border with Mexico, which would be paid for by private donations.

About four years later, that fund has a little more than $264,000. However, Worsley suggested that local law-enforcement agencies could use RICO funds to contribute to the cost, and said he was "very confident" after a conversation with U.S. Senator John McCain that he could get matching federal funds for the project.

Worsley said that at the end of the day, the cost to the state could be as little as $2 to $3 million a year. Still, they haven't even secured that.

The Senate voted 22-5 yesterday to approve the new plan for the border fence, without any new funding, outside of authorizing the use of $264,000 from the border-fence fund.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley