Technology Cannot Replace Physical Barriers

In the days leading up to the partial government shutdown, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) claimed support for border security, but derided the notion of a border wall. “We favor smart, effective border security, not a medieval wall. A Trump shut down will not convince a single Democrat to support bilking the American taxpayer for an ineffective, unnecessary and exorbitantly expensive wall,” Schumer stated.  

Smart border enforcement, with all the technological bells and whistles, is nice and necessary. But it is not a substitute for actual physical barriers. Schumer and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) want to invest in technology – sensors, night vision cameras, etc. – along the border (or so they claim). Such technology is useful insofar as it alerts border enforcement authorities to the fact our borders have been breached. But there is no documented case of sensors or cameras preventing our borders from being breached. Physical barriers – walls and fences – on the other hand, actually prevent people from crossing the border illegally.

 Many people hire home security companies to install alarms and sensors that let them know if someone is breaking into their homes. These are added layers of security and deterrence, not a replacement for locks on doors and windows. The sensors allow the security company to alert the police. Maybe the police get there in time to nab the burglar before he walks off with people’s valuable, and maybe they don’t. Given the choice between having locks on the doors and windows or sensors on the doors and windows, most people would sensibly choose locks.

 Schumer’s objection to “medieval” physical barriers is not their lack of effectiveness, but rather political considerations as the Senate leader of a party that is being pushed toward extreme positions on immigration by a vocal cadre of radical activists. As recently as 2013, Schumer called for a “breathtaking show of force” along the southern border. Back then, Schumer voiced support for an amendment that “would double the size of Border Patrol agents from its current level to over 40,000…[and]finish the job of completing the fence along the entire 700-mile stretch of the southwest border. 

A border wall, or fence, if Schumer prefers that terminology, may seem a little dated, but so is the wheel. Both have been around for a while because they work quite well.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    Technology Identifying the illegal crossing requires Border Patrol to chase and arrest. This is putting our Border Patrol in harms way many thousands of times…Is that hat we want? No ! The fence/wall is very necessary to eliminate in large measure the crossings so we have as little conflict as possible. Let’s protect the Border Patrol people first and build build build….

  2. avatar
    Stephen Russell on

    Physical barriers show STOP Here vs Tech.
    Unless tech can “trigger” an Force Field Fence to deter intruders.
    Then thats something.
    Otherwise need some fence line.

    • avatar

      The Democrats likely prefer to spend a lot of money on “high tech” border security because it make it easier for the Border Patrol to “catch and release” more of the illegals.

  3. avatar

    We favor smart, effective border security, not a medieval wall. A Trump shut down will not convince a single Democrat to support bilking the American taxpayer for an ineffective, unnecessary and exorbitantly expensive wall,” Schumer stated.

    A clever ruse by Schumer and the Democrats, and sadly, there are a lot of Americans who will fall for it.

  4. avatar

    Prisons have “medieval” walls and fences around them. Does that mean nobody ever escapes? No, but it’s rare. A handful of guards in towers can control the whole scene because of the TIME it takes for an inmate to make his way over. They know their chances are all but zilch so they almost never try it. The White House has a fence around it, one of those physical barriers which Chuck and Nancy insist don’t work. When there were a few people who got over a couple years ago, did the Secret Service insist on drones and sensors and all the other “new” advances? No, they built it a couple feet higher.

    Has anyone actually ever seen one of these mythical “30 foot ladders” that illegals would be carrying across miles and miles of desert, according to the left? It’s kind of like believing in Bigfoot. There are plenty of fences or walls to practice on. The ideal target would be the miles of double layer fence that Bill Clinton had built along the San Diego/Tijuana border, because it’s a much easier entry into this country. Place a ladder against a fence, climb up, balance on top of a narrow fence that may have barbed wire, balance yourself while you are pulling up the heavy ladder so you can then place it on the other side and climb down? It’s comically stupid. That fence reduced crossings to almost nothing and the ones who did make it over were with few exceptions caught.

    If Schumer’s lips are moving, he’s lying. Remember all those Democrats who promised their voters that cross their hearts they would never ever vote for Pelosi for speaker because she was an out of touch liberal, blah, blah, blah. If they all had kept their word, she would not be Speaker come this week. But the sheep will twist their little brains into a knot to justify it.

  5. avatar

    I wonder how fast the Dimocrats would approve money for The Wall if it was one of their family members murdered by an illegal criminal??? Give ‘We The People’ The Friggin’ Wall NOW…

  6. avatar

    Up-Chuck Schumer’s been an Open Borders Lunatic and illegal alien shill for so long that it’s hard to believe he ever uttered a peep about enforcing our labor and immigration laws or securing our border. He should be confronted regularly with his old video clips and sound bytes and asked: “Senator Schumer, exactly when did you stop being a racist?”