Arizona Capitol

Arizona's Proposed $30 Million "Virtual Border Fence" Would Allow Public Monitoring

Proposals for a border fence are nothing new in Arizona, but Republican state Senator Bob Worsley's call for a "virtual border fence" is a bit different.

Worsley explained the system in a committee hearing Monday, saying the public would be able to monitor the images collected by these devices with infrared cameras placed along the border.

Worsley's proposal for the virtual fence, Senate Bill 1106, would cost the state $30 million.

Worsley said there's nothing in his law that's about enforcement; it's just about monitoring.

He said the purpose is to "verify the claims made by [federal agencies] in terms of how secure or border really is."

Republican Senator Chester Crandell didn't really see the point.

"I'm not sure that it's a good, wise use of money to just tell the federal government, 'Haha, we can see what you're doing,'" he said.

Although Worsley said the fence wasn't about enforcement, he reiterated that anyone can see the images provided by the cameras, even officers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety or county sheriffs. (This is the same Worsley who beat SB 1070 champion Russell Pearce in a Republican primary a couple of years ago.)

Crandell also opined that Arizona's congressional delegation should be getting this done on the federal level, instead of Arizona having to fork over the money for it.

The federal government tried to make a similar virtual fence a few years ago, and it turned into a costly joke. About 53 miles of coverage was built at a cost of $1 billion. Worsley told the panel that he got the $30 million figure as a quote from a Utah company, and he's seeking other quotes on the system as well.

Although this particular committee narrowly approved Worsley's proposal, it still has several more steps to go, including a trip to the appropriations committee -- which might see a bigger problem with the spending.

Worsley plans to have one of these cameras set up at the state capitol so everyone can get a better idea of how it works. You can click here to read the entire text of his bill.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley