There’s no good narrative stitching all these stories together, save one: The federal government still isn’t serious about securing the border.

The virtual fence, touted by the likes of President Bush and Sen. Hillary Clinton as the high-tech way to security, doesn’t work.

Ground radar and cameras that were to identify illegal border crossers so that armed patrols could be dispatched to capture them have had trouble distinguishing people and vehicles from cows and bushes. The sensors are also confused by moisture, the officials said.

The government has grown so worried that it is withholding nearly $5 million in payments to Boeing Co., which was selected as the main contractor a year ago. The House Appropriations Committee has voted to withhold $700 million of the $1 billion that President Bush requested for the program for next year, pending further details and progress reports.

In May 2006, Bush heralded the “virtual fence” as “the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history” and as a linchpin for his immigration overhaul, which later collapsed in the Senate. DHS has proposed spending $2.5 billion to secure 370 miles of the border with fences, at least 200 miles of vehicle barriers and about 130 miles with technology by the end of the next year.

In the virtual shadow of the virtual fence that doesn’t work, members from the governments on both sides are meeting to make a show of doing something that neither government really wants to do.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, are all expected to attend the two-day meeting in the Sonoran beach resort of Puerto Penasco, or Rocky Point. It’s a sign, say state officials, that the ball is in their court.

“This shows the states taking the initiative, trying to discuss their common interests and coming to some solutions,” said Mario Welfo, a spokesman for Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours Castelo.

All six Mexican border governors are expected to attend the meeting, the 25th of its kind, on Thursday and Friday, Welfo said. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will represent the U.S. side.

Past meetings have been criticized as gabfests, with few real results.

Well, the lack of results could be in part because governors like Texas’ Rick Perry speak out of both sides of their mouths on the issue, saying “Enforcement first!” on the north side of the border and “We don’t need no stinkin’ wall!” when on the south side.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MEXICO CITY — Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday criticized the proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico as he expressed optimism about the future of economic ties between his state and Mexico.

Perry is leading a trade mission of more than 150 Texas business leaders and state officials focused on developing partnerships in the energy sector, particularly renewable energies like wind power.

Perry told reporters that the border barrier — approved by Congress last fall and signed into law by President Bush in October — sends a “bad message” and it “absolutely won’t work.” Perry made the remarks before he was scheduled to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, also an outspoken critic of the planned 700-mile wall between Brownsville, Texas and the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, a town that took immigration matters into its own hands is having a change of heart thanks mostly to the economic impact of having so many illegals leave town.

RIVERSIDE, N.J., Sept. 25 — A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

Angelina Guedes has owned a hair and nail salon in Riverside, N.J., for two years. It was nearly empty on a recent afternoon.

Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.

Read the rest.

San Diego has come up with a solution to the cost of having so many illegals actually stay in town. It won’t help Riverside, but it might get the feds’ attention.