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TUCSON, Ariz–Visiting the operations of “P-28″–the prototype of Homeland Security’s future “virtual fence”  –with the Border Patrol made me more optimistic about the future of the program called the Secure Border Initiative or SBI Net.

The virtual fence is not a “magic bullet” or even a substitute for “real fences” but in some places along the border—particularly the open tracks of desert in the border area around Tucson—it can make a valuable contribution making illegal border crossings a lot more difficult.

P-28, mostly an experiment, is being replaced by new systems that implements all the lessons learned from first phase of SBI-Net. Two new sections (Tucson-1 and AJO-11) covering the old P-28 area plus about two dozen more miles will be up and running later this year. They will cover some of the most dangerous and heavily trafficked areas used by smugglers.

SBI-Net won’t seal the border. It will, however, do something very important it will help focus Border Patrol assets—targeting smugglers and making apprehensions much more efficient. Effective interdiction will serve as much better deterrent to illegal border crossing than a static “wall.”