updated 5/7/2009 8:09:43 PM ET 2009-05-08T00:09:43

Federal officials say they're ready to begin building a "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border.

They expect it to cover nearly the entire 2,000-mile boundary within five years.

The executive director of the Homeland Security Department's Secure Border Initiative program said that construction could start within weeks.

The first towers holding sensors, cameras and communications gear to detect drug smugglers and illegal immigrants will be built along 53 miles of Arizona's border with Mexico. Towers on the remaining 320 miles of the state's southern border will follow.

Project director Mark Borkowski says New Mexico will get virtual fencing next, followed by California and most of Texas.

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