US pumps money into surveillance tech at southern border

US pumps money into surveillance tech at southern border

US pumps money into surveillance tech at southern border

According to EFF, the agency plans to triple the number of towers, from 135 today to 442, and upgrade existing towers with new technologies over the next few years.

There are three types of towers: integrated fixed towers, remote CCTV systems and stand-alone surveillance towers. They all focus on detecting people from a distance, and the makers of the first two types claim that sophisticated cameras, radar sensors and lasers on the towers can detect a person over 7.5 miles away. Autonomous watch towers are the newest of the bunch, and although they have a shorter range – they can detect a person 2.7 km away – they are equipped with motion detection radar and AI of detection which makes it possible to analyze the images without human examination.

According to CBP’s 2023 budget, the agency plans to consolidate all the towers into a single interoperable program and eventually erect a total of 723 towers between the northern and southern border.

But despite all the technology, according to Maass, the goal of the program isn’t entirely clear: “I’ve never heard a very well-articulated explanation of what the goal is. Is the goal to deter people from crossing the border? Is it to document people crossing the border? Is it to intercept people crossing the border? Like… what is it?

So why is the program being expanded so drastically? We’re not completely sure, and the agency declined to comment on the case. According to Maass, the rationales are rooted in the crisis mentality of agencies responding to border migration. “All you hear is Border crisis, border crisis,he says, but usually the real crises occur at entry points or along common migration routes. “You don’t need a watchtower to know there’s a group of asylum seekers camping under a bridge in El Paso,” he says.

Maass says he has found evidence that the United States was using border watchtowers as early as 1930. But the risks of more advanced, more comprehensive and more accurate technologies are real, especially when targeting border communities.

All of the surveillance disrupts daily life in these communities, and a recent report by the ACLU of Texas showed that residents’ mental health was significantly affected by surveillance, whether supposed or real. David Donatti, a lawyer for the group, said the research showed that “the majority of people avoid going to essential places like grocery stores, hospitals, polling places and community centers because they are afraid to meet border patrols”.

Donatti also points out that migrants are entering the United States in droves legally and without trying to evade authorities, so surveillance technology is not necessary in most cases. As legal options are restricted, would-be migrants resort to more dangerous options, but Donatti says more surveillance doesn’t solve the fundamental problem.


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