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Eric Lipton, Reporter, New York Times

BY MARIE ANDRUSEWICZ -- It’s a compromise, and one particularly favored by Republicans. Provide a legal pathway for the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, but strengthen the borders so another 11 million don’t find their way in.

This is the impetus behind a law that would require the Department of Homeland Security to achieve 90 percent effectiveness in preventing or apprehending those who attempt to enter into the country without documentation.  According to the New York Times, the bill’s language calls for “effective control” and “persistent surveillance” of the 1,969-mile border the U.S. shares with Mexico, something that’s never been accomplished.

With a limited number of border patrol agents, this will be difficult. Also difficult? “How do you define 90 percent?” asks New York Times reporter Eric Lipton. “Both for them to accomplish intercepting 90 percent and to even know how many come in – these are very difficult challenges.”

Math problems aside, the DHS wants to improve technology at the border, including more drones. But they don’t want it to be created explicitly for homeland security; they want it off the shelf. The Tuscon area is a highly-trafficked crossing point for immigrants entering illegally and has served as a testing ground for new technology.

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“It’s not very complicated stuff,” says Lipton. “I was out in the desert a couple of weeks ago south of Tuscon near the Mexican border and they basically have these towers that are not unlike a long-range electric transmission tower, and on the tower they had a radar that was circling around and they had two cameras and a laser pointer and one camera worked at night one during the day.”

However low- tech the methods, the drive to improve technology at the border would be a boon to military contractors including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

“The whole idea is to automate the system of detecting incursions and then having the border patrol agents respond to the incursions,” says Lipton. “If you do that you can focus your human resources on apprehension.”