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Texas Congressman Introduces SMART Act, Calls for Tech-Minded Approach to Border Security

Congressman Will Hurd, who represents much of far West Texas, has introduced a bill aimed at using tech in order to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hurd’s ‘‘Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology Act’’ – or SMART Act – calls for homeland security to use “the most practical and effective technology” along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Violent drug cartels are using more modern technology to breach our border than what we are using to secure it," said Hurd, whose district includes some 800 miles of Texas' southern border. "We can’t double down on a Third Century approach to solve 21st Century problems if we want a viable long-term solution,”

The bill would also require the creation of a comprehensive border security strategy, which would include a break down of all known technologies and other tools that can be used along the border. A core of moderates and border representatives, including Texas Rep. Eddy Cuellar, D-Laredo, have co-sponsored the bill. "A giant wall is nothing more than a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem," Cuellar said in a press release.

The bill  would also see the creation of a two-year grant initiative to improve border communications with upgraded equipment, like multi-band radios. Additionally, the SMART Act addresses what border lawmakers like Hurd and Cuellar have considered an impediment to border security: Carrizo cane, an invasive species that crowds the banks of the Rio Grande. Officials with relevant Federal, state and local agencies would coordinate with the government to "begin eradicating the carrizo cane plant and any salt cedar along the Rio Grande River," reads the bill.

Backing Hurd's bill is data compiled from Silicon-Valley company Anduril Industries, according to CNN. The defense technology group estimates securing the border through a high-tech approach could cost up to $500,000 per mile, which is substantially less than the $24.5 million the government requested.

Hurd mentioned the estimates at a Homeland security subcommittee hearing earlier this week, where he addressed border patrol representatives.

“It’s 2017 and I think we as a government should have done a better job at helping y’all deploy technology to do a better job," Hurd told a panel of border patrol officials.

The bill has received the support of the National Border Control Council, which represents an estimated 18,000 agents.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.