Radar Confirms the Border Is Not Secure

The use of a sophisticated radar system originally developed by the Pentagon to track the Taliban in Afghanistan has revealed more illegal aliens are able to circumvent the Border Patrol than previously thought. The radar system, called the Vehicle Dismount and Exploitation Radar (Vader), was deployed to Arizona in March 2012 and is now used three to four days a week, for eight to 12 hours a day tracking movement along the border. (Los Angeles Times, Apr. 3, 2013)

Although the radar system has helped the Border Patrol catch illegal aliens, internal reports also reveal that Border Patrol agents apprehended fewer than half of those illegally crossing the border into southern Arizona. (Id.) Using the radar, which is operated from a Predator drone, Border Patrol agents caught 1,874 people in a 150-square-mile stretch of the Sonora Desert between October 1, 2012 and January 17, 2013. (Id.) However, the Vader system also identified an additional 1,962 people in the same area who evaded arrest, which the Border Patrol calls “gotaways.” (Id.)

The findings debunk the Obama Administration’s repeated claims that the border is secure. In January, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that the Border Patrol detained 64% of those who illegally crossed into the Tucson sector in 2011. (Id.)

Not surprisingly, Administration officials downplayed the Vader report’s findings. Michael Friel, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the Vader was only in a “preliminary testing phase.” (Los Angeles Times, Apr. 3, 2013) He also charged that the calculation method was flawed because it did not include people who were detained after the radar left the area. (Id.) “There is no silver bullet in border technology,” Friel said. (Id.)

In contrast, an unnamed former law enforcement official praised the system as “a match made in heaven for border security.” (Id.) The source credited the radar with helping Border Patrol agents observe migrants and smugglers gathering on the Mexico side of the border before they attempt to cross illegally into the United States. (Id.)

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) echoed that sentiment. “That is the kind of technology we would like to see all across the border,” McCaul, said in a telephone interview. (Id.) Chairman McCaul said he was briefed on the Vader system during a February trip to the border in Arizona. (Id.) McCaul announced that he is drafting a bill that would require DHS to establish an accurate measure of border security effectiveness. (Id.) “You can’t measure what you can’t see,” he said. “There is an awful lot we’re not seeing.” (Id.)

Despite Mr. Friel’s comments, the tests were successful enough that the Border Patrol has asked Congress to appropriate funds for the purchase of two additional Vader systems. (Id.) Each system costs approximately $5 million per year to operate and maintain. (Id.)

About Author


Content written by Federation for American Immigration Reform staff.


  1. avatar

    There is NO substitute for a physical barrier that takes time to get over. No one says everyone will be stopped, but a fence is a major deterrent, allowing border patrol to get there in time. You don’t see a “virtual fence” around the White House, do you? Once a person has passed the border, it’s really a matter of luck if they are caught. A lot of people try to claim that there is “zero net migration” from Mexico, but that is false. Were the border secure, no one would be trying, but many thousands still are. And as proven by the figures here, they take the chance because they likely will succeed.

    Another thing to be considered is that it only takes ONE border patrol agent who decides to take a payoff, and that has happened, to let smugglers know when the system in not in operation, because it notes in the article that it is only in operation three to four days a week. How many crossed in the times it was NOT in operation.

    • avatar
      John WInthrop on

      I disagree Leland……actually even better that a Wall is to equip our infra-structure……………..that is all it takes…………….remember the Berlin Wall only lasted so long…………….at the end of thing it is about people, their compliance to support it government and how good of a glue their infra-structure to serve as a deterrence………….then a no wall will be the best wall ever.

      Yet, Leland, I am appalled at our representatives that are supposed to be the best how come such simple solution does not even bring to their grey matter a methodology and approach to fix this…………………really…..