ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
In Arizona, the effort to secure the Mexican border is running up against the rights of U.S. citizens. The federal government is installing the first radar and camera towers in the virtual wall known as the Secure Border Initiative Network. And as NPR's Ted Robbins reports, people in one Arizona town are not happy about where the towers are going.
TED ROBBINS: There was a lot of gabble banging at the Arivaca community center. Mostly, to stop the crowd of about 50 residents from interrupting a panel of board of patrol official and managers from the Boeing Corporation.
(Soundbite of meeting)
ROBBINS: The officials including the Border Patrol's Tom King(ph) came to explain why a 98-foot tower had been erected on the edge of town a week ago.
Mr. TOM KING (Arivaca Border Patrol): Now, what this has on top of it is a radar, a daytime camera and a nighttime camera.
ROBBINS: Nine towers are strung along a 28 miles stretch of the desert. A stretch that, at time, sees thousands of illegal crossings daily. The government admitted last year that it couldn't stop the traffic, so it hired Boeing to come up with a solution that includes fences, vehicle barriers and the high-tech towers. The fences and barriers are on the border, but Arivaca is 11 miles north of the border. The tower is on a hill next to the town.
Residents like Mary Scott(ph) say the location is not only ineffective, the cameras and radar will invade Arivaca's privacy.
Ms. MARY SCOTT (Resident, Arizona): When you stand on that hill, all you see are citizens. You see our townside and you don't see any of the places the illegals(ph) travel. Okay? You can't see them.
Unidentified Man: Ma'am, the engineers of Boeing have chosen that place. I don't know why it's here.
ROBBINS: A Boeing manager told the meeting that the site was chosen using computer modeling of the terrain. He did not say that the concept is to build fences in places where crossers can disappear quickly into a city or onto a highway. The virtual fence, the towers, are put where agents have time to track crossers. As to whether this tower is in the right place, Tom King reminded the crowd that it's a test.
Mr. KING: If they need to move it, we'll move it. But if they don't, I'm afraid they'll probably stay there.
ROBBINS: The people of Arivaca - by their own admission - are pretty sensitive. They've endured years of illegal immigrants and drug traffickers crossing their land. Plus hundred of boarder patrol agents giving chase. So this crowd of ranchers, farmers and artists knows the problem. And resident Phil Benoit(ph) says the FBI net, even if it works, isn't going to halt illegal immigration. Only fare wages at home, he says, will do that.
Mr. PHIL BENOIT (Resident, Arizona): I mean the only way to stop people from coming over is to stop their motivation, and that's by getting rid of the corrupt Mexican government. And of course, that's not going to happen until we get rid of the corrupt one here.
ROBBINS: In this case, it might have been easier to gain these folks' trust if the government had given them more than four days notice of their plans. The Border Patrol's Mark Rio(ph) says that was the biggest mistake here.
Mr. MARK RIO (Border Patrol): You can't make up for doing your tenure relations in advance or your deployment schedule. That's my honest opinion.
ROBBINS: It's a lesson, resident Phil Benoit says, the border patrol and Boeing need to learn. Sixty-eight more towers are scheduled to go up along the U.S.-Mexican border as part of the multi-billion dollar FBI net by the end of next year.
Mr. BENOIT: I mean that's not just Arivaca. That's a lot of other places. A lot more people are starting to need to become concern.
ROBBINS: The 28-mile FBI net test is scheduled to come online in southern Arizona in mid-June. Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.
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