The President (of the United States, not Mexico) is cutting his budget.
Buckle your seat belts. Budget revisions are always bumpy rides. Everybody seems to have a sacred cow in danger of being gored -- to mix my metaphor meat.
But I will not weep over one cut. The administration has decided to curtail the federal plan to spend $6.7 billion (US) to secure its border with Mexico with a "virtual" electronic fence.
If that term sounds familiar, you are probably about my age.
Robert McNamara and his whiz kids thought they could win a bloodless victory in Viet Nam by installing a virtual fence along the borders between South Viet Nam and Cambodia, Laos, and North Viet Nam. It didn't work. That red flag flying over Saigon is proof of how effective the idea was.
The proposed virtual fence between the United States and Mexico is designed for a far more benign presence -- economic invaders.
Let's stick one red herring back in its can. Most people who turn a jaundiced eye on this project do not support an open border policy. At least, I don't.
As long as sovereign nations exist, they are the sole arbiters -- with a few exceptions -- of what happens within their borders. And who comes across those borders. A nation that cannot support its borders is not sovereign.
The reason most of us oppose the fence (in addition to the obvious comparison with such unsavory louts as Erich Honneker and Enver Hoxha) is simple: it won't work. In fact, it hasn't worked.
The idea sounded easy. In the early 2000s, the border had a series of disconnected electronic devices to detect incursions. The plan was to integrate and update the existing system, using cameras, ground sensors, and radar, for that fabled $6.7 billion.
After spending $672 million and slipping far behind the scheduled operational date of 2011 to 2014, the pilot system is still not working.
Software problems. Video malfunctions. Satellite link lags. All have conspired to spike the system.
And spiked it is. At least, everything is spiked except the still non-operational pilot system.
The tragedy is that until the United States can show some control over its own borders, much-needed immigration policy reform will be politically impossible.
When I left Melaque on Wednesday, I had an interesting conversation with my taxi driver. He had worked for six years in Colorado in the "services industry." He returned home when the American economy looked no better than the job market in Melaque.
He said he would eventually go north again -- unless the job opportunities improved in Mexico.
That is the solution. Not fences. And it is one Presidents Fox and Calderón has recognized. Mexico will not stop exporting some of its most ambitious workers until its economy grows.
But that has turned out to be as chimeric as the virtual fence.