Technology will be a critical component of a good border wall

In the dead of the desert night, several lumbering figures approach the U.S. border from the Mexican side. Are they smugglers bringing heroin or cocaine into the country, undocumented immigrants risking their lives, or maybe just a couple of hapless cows looking for fresh grass?

Currently, a lack of adequate technology makes it remarkably difficult for the U.S. Border Patrol to get an early warning of just what type of threat such incidents represent, despite an extensive network of video cameras and unattended ground sensors.

That is why the House Homeland Security Committee’s passage of a $10 billion border security bill last week is an important first step in plugging porous frontier areas without breaking the budget. Although Democrats were quick to skewer the Republican-backed bill as an empty gesture to please President Trump, the language of the committee’s bill rejects Trump’s grandiose campaign pledge of a “big, beautiful” wall stretching from coast to coast.

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NAFTA negotiations are on the ropes

As negotiations to reform the NAFTA free-trade agreement struggle to advance, hobbled by extreme U.S. demands and the administration’s ongoing threats to withdraw, the rest of the world is moving on.

Officials are due to hold a sixth and penultimate round of negotiations in Montreal from Jan. 23-28 as time runs out to bridge major differences.

The European Union and Japan just finalized the world’s biggest free-trade pact that will cover 30 percent of global GDP. The European Union and Mexico are speeding towards a major update of their 17-year-old trade deal. Washington’s NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, seeking to reduce their dependency on the United States, are aiming to cement closer trade and investment ties with China. Beijing is pushing ahead with its $1 trillion “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative that promises to vastly expand its economic and diplomatic influence. Eleven other Asia-Pacific nations are moving forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, despite the Trump administration’s exit from the deal in one of the president’s first acts in office.

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A virtual wall, not a physical wall, is the key to stopping illegal immigration

Construction of President Trump’s promised southern border wall could begin as soon as spring 2018, provided Congress hands over more than $1 billion in funding. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Chief of the Border Patrol Carla Provost told the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee on Tuesday that with the $1.6 billion in the 2018 budget request set aside for wall construction, work on the wall could start in March or April 2018.

Investing in border security infrastructure is important, but Congress should dedicate funds to technological solutions, rather than a continuous concrete barrier that anyone who works in border security knows is a waste of money.

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It’s time to confirm permanent leadership for Customs and Border Patrol

It’s time to confirm permanent leadership for Customs and Border Patrol
Nine months in, the Trump administration remains hobbled by an unprecedented number of vacant positions, with nearly 272 key jobs lacking a nominee and some 180 nominees awaiting Senate confirmation. Some of those delays are costlier than others.

Take Kevin McAleenan, who has been acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since the Obama administration ended on Jan. 20. Trump formally nominated him in March to head the CBP, a crucial role in seeing through the administration’s plans to bolster border security, implement a better NAFTA deal and tighten immigration policies.

Six months later, McAleenan’s nomination is only now being heard by the Senate Finance Committee, a delay that has cast a pall of uncertainty over the CBP’s long-term leadership as well as other key positions, such as border patrol chief.

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