Because technology is rarely a panacea to any public policy problem, border towns need to be brought into the discussion. A bipartisan task force on immigration and the United States’ future, in a 2006 report, said veterans of earlier failed border endeavors agreed the Secure Border Initiative will only succeed “through better dialogue among the key parties … The goal should be to clarify a strategy where all stakeholders—public and private—agree on the problem to be solved, the metrics that can measure progress and success, and the technology solutions most likely to achieve measurable results.
Although the Border Patrol does local outreach as part of its day-to-day operations, it should ensure those efforts also include include key planners, program officers and contractors who are involved in the SBI program. Experts agree that the project will function better if there are human relationships on both sides of the border and up and down the federal, state, and local law enforcement chain.
In particular, law enforcement officials in communities near the fence must get greater attention in addressing border security—not just through vehicles and other equipment but through funding that can boost staffing levels at busy jurisdictions, too. They must also be made a partner in consultations with DHS to ensure smooth and effective planning in the future. After all, these communities will remain on the front lines even after the physical and virtual fences are in place and the flow of undocumented immigrants slows and will be engaged with Mexican communities across the border. Local communities in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California will remain important eyes and ears on the ground.
Homeland Security officials say they held dozens of meetings and contacted almost 600 different landowners in the course of building the fence. They said it resulted in several important changes to the fence’s alignment. Those outreach efforts should be expanded; one possibility is through the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Committee’s Southwest Border Task Force, which is currently made up of more than 20 elected and nonelected officials from around the border region.
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