Bob Worsley’s first run for elected office might as well have been rigged. As the founder of SkyMall — the catalog tucked into airline passenger-seat pockets — he was wealthy enough to loan nearly $200,000 to his Republican primary campaign. He also had the advantage of an unpopular foe: his opponent, former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, had passed one of the most controversial (and, according to the ACLU, racially motivated) immigration laws in United States history.

So when Worsley coasted to a Republican primary victory in August 2012 — and then trounced his Democrat challenger during the general election — it wasn’t much of a surprise. But once Worsley took his seat as senator for Arizona’s 25th District in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, he had a daunting task ahead of him: improving upon his predecessor’s disastrous immigration legacy.

In February, Worsley proposed his solution: a series of mobile, wide-area radar surveillance towers stretching nearly 400 miles along Arizona’s border with Mexico. The proposal is essentially a shadow border, meant to evaluate the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) performance — and then improve it. “My argument,” he tells me from his high-ceilinged corner office, about 20 miles east of downtown Phoenix, “is that you can’t get anywhere without securing the border once and for all.” This shadow border is his way of beginning that process, and would cost $30 million to set up.

Reactions to the proposal have been mixed. Senators in border states — and Worsley’s constituents — are listening. But no one’s clamoring to throw him money to get it started. And two big questions remain: Why is a surveillance program the best alternative to a problematic immigration law? And what makes Worsley think he can change the debate with a new kind of radar?