Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Virtual Posse

According to Alicia A. Caldwell of the Associated Press, you too may soon be able to patrol the nation's southern border in virtual reality:

The governor of Texas wants to turn all the world into a virtual posse. Rick Perry has announced a $5 million plan to install hundreds of night-vision cameras on private land along the Mexican border and put the live video on the Internet, so that anyone with a computer who spots illegal immigrants trying to slip across can report it on a toll-free hotline.


Under the plan, announced on the eve of the state GOP convention, cameras and other equipment would be supplied to willing landowners and placed along some of the most remote reaches of the border. The live video would be made available to law enforcement and anyone else with an Internet connection.

Viewers would be able to call day or night to report anything that looks like trespassing, drug smuggling or something else suspicious.

The plan has attracted some criticism. Here are two examples from the article that are quite revealing. Up first:
"This is just one of those half-baked ideas that people dream up to save money but have no practical applications," said Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin. "We would be far better off to invest that money in Mexican small towns along the border so people wouldn't have to emigrate."
I'd be curious to see the cost-benefit analysis that generates the "far better off" conclusion. And Mr. Harrington's suggestion for the use of the $5 million would make a very unusual platform for the governor of Texas. Here's the beginning of the TCRP's mission statement:
The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) promotes racial, social, and economic justice through education and litigation. TCRP strives to foster equality, secure justice, ensure diversity, and strengthen communities.
In light of Mr. Harrington's comments, perhaps the TCRP should append the words "in Mexico" to the end or change the name of the organization. The civil rights of legal residents of Texas don't seem to be the priority in Mr. Harringon's writings, where he is surely not being misquoted.

Up next:
Luis Figueroa, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, warned that the cameras could lead to racial profiling and vigilanteism.

"This leaves the door open to anyone who has a vindictive state of mind or a racial motive," Figueroa said. "Anyone down there could easily be mistaken and falsely accused of something they didn't do."
Racial profiling? I guess Mr. Figueroa has some concerns that the cameras will systematically miss all of the non-Hispanics coming across the border between Texas and Mexico? Here's MALDEF's mission statement:
MALDEF is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to protect and promote the civil rights of the more than 40 million Latinos living in the United States. Making sure that there are no obstacles preventing this diverse community from realizing its dreams, MALDEF works to secure the rights of Latinos, primarily in the areas of employment, education, immigrants' rights, political access and public resource equity.
I don't see how the governor's plan violates the civil rights of anyone living in the United States. The posting of the cameras is with the consent of the property owner. The monitoring of the feed on the Internet is by volunteers. Those entering the country by way of private lands are doing so illegally and should be apprehended. Their civil rights are not being infringed either.
If the second letter in MALDEF has its conventional meaning, then MALDEF should be all for the governor's plan.


Anonymous said...

On the surface this looks economical but the problem is this:

With these cameras in place you assume those areas of the border are covered and put fewer border patrol resources toward them. Now it becomes possible for the coyotes to BRIBE certain home owners to point their cameras conveniently, "accidentally" in the wrong direction and this would provide a reliable, safe hole in the border.

Arun Khanna said...

Mr. Harrington's plan might be half baked but a number of Americans stand taller because he took the first step against Mexican aggression.