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‘So what?’

A group of tax-funded California artists are developing a GPS-enabled cell phone to help dehydrated aliens find water as they enter this country illegally.

The Transborder Immigrant Tool is part technology endeavor, part art project. The designers are three visual artists on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego and an English professor at the University of Michigan. “It’s about giving water to somebody who’s dying in the desert of dehydration,” explains Micha Cardenas, a UCSD lecturer.

And the effort is being made on the taxpayers’ dime — an irony not lost on the designers whose salaries are paid by the state of California. “There are many, many areas in which every American would say I don’t like the way my tax dollars are being spent. Our answer to that is an in-your-face, ‘So what?’ ” says UCSD lecturer Brett Stalbaum.

The designers want to load inexpensive phones with GPS software. Pressing a menu button displays water stations, with the distance to each. The designers, who have raised $15,000 from a UCSD grant and an art festival award, hope to hand out phones for free in Mexico.

This is “nothing new,” U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Mark Endicott told The Associated Press. “We’ve seen handheld GPS devices used by smugglers.” But, “if it’s not a crime, it’s very close to committing a crime,” adds Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego.

Offering someone a flight across the country in your private plane could be seen as a humanitarian gesture, too — unless you know they’re running drugs or other contraband. In that case, it’s called “a felony.”

Now, it’s in the nature of “artsy types” to dream up projects that capture the public’s attention by attacking convention and adapting the mantle of outrageousness. How seriously these “artists” want to commit the felony of aiding and abetting illegal entry into this country should be reviewed by the authorities if they actually put their plans into effect.

Given that taxpayer dollars are going to fund this assault on our national sovereignty, however — and the stunning arrogance of the perpetrators in that regard — California officials can and should examine some targeted layoffs in the implicated departments. Should anyone raise an objection, it appears Mr. Stalbaum has already provided a ready-made response: “Our answer to that is an in-your-face, ‘So what?’ “

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