GOP Border Lawmaker: 'Can't Double Down' on 3rd-Century Wall to Solve 21st-Century Problems

Lucien Greaves co-founder of The Satanic Temple, stands next to a statue of the goat-headed idol Baphomet at the international headquarters of the Satanic Temple in Salem, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who has voiced support for a technology-driven solution over President Trump’s border wall, has introduced legislation in support of building a “Smart Wall” that would entail high-tech detection and tracking systems.

“Violent drug cartels are using more modern technology to breach our border than what we are using to secure it,” Hurd said in a statement last week introducing the Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology (SMART) Act. “We can’t double down on a Third Century approach to solve 21st Century problems if we want a viable long-term solution.”

Hurd, whose district includes 800 miles of U.S.-Mexico border, said during a congressional hearing last week that he favors the U.S. investing in a “smart wall” rather than spending billions to build the 700- to 900-mile border wall that Trump has envisioned.

Hurd has the support of other border lawmakers and a handful of Republicans, including Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), David G. Valadao (R-Calif.), Steve Knight (R-Calif.) and Steve Pearce (R-N.M.). The legislation calls for the deployment of the “most practical and effective” border security technology, including sensors, radar, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), fiber optics, drones and cameras.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke also would be required to provide Congress with a report detailing all options for “physical barriers, technologies, tools and other devices that can be utilized along the southern border.” Finally, the legislation would authorize $110 million for coordination between Customs and Border Patrol and state and local agencies.

“A giant wall is nothing more than a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem,” Cuellar said in a statement.

Jaeson Jones, a retired captain of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division, who managed daily operations for the Texas Rangers’ Border Security Operations Center, voiced support for Trump’s wall. He said that while he supports leveraging technology, the U.S. needs a brick-and-mortar structure to combat drug cartels.

“When I read stuff like this, and it tells me that we don’t need a hard wall, all I hear is politics,” Jones said in an interview Monday. “And I care about the American people. I don’t care about politicians.”

As Jones described, in urban areas at the Texas border, migrants and traffickers can cross the border and enter a subdivision in a matter of 20 to 50 yards. In these areas, it’s very common for 50 to 100 people to dash across the border, he said, and by the time law enforcement responds border crossers are already inside stash houses.

“What the wall does in these urban areas is it holds people long enough so that law enforcement can respond in order to apprehend them,” Jones said.

Jones, who has dealt firsthand with Mexican cartels and criminal organizations like the MS-13 gang, said that these transnational organizations are as highly trained as ISIS, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda. And while the U.S. openly discusses border security, these organizations are adjusting to the technology and the proposed border structure alike, he said. According to Jones, cartels are already testing ways to dig under the proposed wall.

“Yes, we’ve got to build a wall. Yes, we’ve got to leverage technology. But we’ve also got to go after them,” he said. “You’re going to have to have a solid barrier. It’s just the truth. You’re going to have to have one.”

Hurd’s legislation also has the support of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents 18,000 Border Patrol agents. NBPC president Brandon Judd said in a statement that the U.S. needs technology, infrastructure and manpower to combat “international drug cartels that poison our communities with meth, heroin, and other dangerous drugs.”