If Congress were to fail to pass a spending bill before the end of the day Friday, the government could shut down. That’s why President Trump just blinked. He shelved a plan to demand that funding for a border wall be included in that bill after both Democrats and Republicans voiced fierce opposition.
President Trump seemed intent on avoiding the humiliation of seeing his plan for a “big, beautiful wall” shut down along with the government, particularly when his own party controls Congress. Throughout his campaign, he sold the wall to his base as a bold symbol of his commitment to cracking down on illegal immigration. And so presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway took to the airwaves Tuesday to run cover for the president as his plans faltered. “Building that wall and having it funded remains an important priority to him,” Conway said on Fox & Friends. “But we also know that that can happen later this year and into next year.” Instead, Conway said, “smart technology” would enhance border security in the interim.
That may be just a rhetorical gesture on Conway’s part, but it’s one the Trump administration ought to take seriously. To protect the border in a way that’s both effective and cost-effective, tech is at least as critical as any physical barrier.
I’d want to see a larger set of metrics about what our existing investments in infrastructure and technology have gotten us.
Of course, as with most things, it would be a mistake to believe that throwing technology at the problem will solve everything. What the country needs, experts say, are better measurements to determine how effective these tools and policy approaches are at stopping illegal border crossings and drug trafficking. “I’d want to see a larger set of metrics about what our existing investments in infrastructure and technology have gotten us,” says Theresa Cardinal Brown, who directs immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
President Trump, for one, has been celebrating the 40 percent decline in apprehensions at the southern border between January and February of this year. But, Brown notes, “Apprehensions on their own do not tell you how secure the border is.”