This “border surge,” a phrase coined by Senator Chuck Schumer, is also a surveillance surge. The Senate bill provides for the hiring of almost 19,000 new Border Patrol agents, the building of 7 00 additional miles of walls, fences, and barriers, and an investment of billions of dollars in the latest surveillance technologies, including drones.
In this, the bill only continues in a post-9/11 tradition in which our southern divide has become an on-the ground laboratory for the development of a surveillance state whose mission is already moving well beyond those borderlands. Calling this “immigration reform” is like calling the National Security Agency ’s expanding global surveillance system a domestic telecommunications upgrade. It’s really all about the country that the United States is becoming — one of the police and the policed.
Low-Intensity War ZoneThe $46 billion border security price tag in the immigration reform bill will simply expand on what has already been built. After all, $100 billion was spenton border “enforcement” in the first decade after 9/1 1 . To that must be added the annual $18 billion budget for border and immigration enforcement, money that outpaces the combined budgets of all other federal law enforcement agencies. In fact, since Operation Blockade in the 1990s, the U.S.-Mexico border has gone through so many surges that a time when simple chain link fences separated two friendly countries is now unimaginable.
To witness the widespread presence of Department of Homeland Security agents on the southern border, just visit that international boundary 100 miles south of Border Security Expo. Approximately 7 00 miles of walls, fences, and barriers already cut off the two countries at its major urban crossings and many rural ones as well. Emplaced everywhere are cameras that can follow you — or your body heat — day or night. Overhead, as in Afghanistan, a Predator B drone may hover. Y ou can’t hear its incessant buzzing only because it flies so high, nor can you see the crew in charge of flying it and analyzing your movements from possibly hundreds of miles away.
As you walk, perhaps you step on implanted sensors, creating a beeping noise in some distant monitoring room. Meanwhile, green-striped Border Patrol vehicles rush by constantly . On the U.S.-Mexican border, there are already more than 18,500 agents (and approximately 2,300 more on the Canadian border). In counter terrorism mode, they are paid to be suspicious of every thing and everybody . Some Homeland Security vehicles sport trailers carrying All Terrain Vehicles. Some have mounted surveillance cameras, others cages to detain captured migrants. Some borderlanders like Mike Wilson of the Tucson-based Border Action Network, a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation (a Native American people and the original inhabitants of the Arizona borderlands), call the border security operatives an “occupying army .”
Checkpoints — normally located 20-50 miles from the international boundary — serve as a second lay er of border enforcement. Stopped at one of them, you will be interrogated by armed agents in green, most likely with drug-sniffing dogs. If you are near the international divide, it’s hard to avoid such checkpoints where you will be asked about your citizenship — and much more if any thing you say or do, or simply the way you look, raises suspicions. Even outside of the checkpoints, agents of the Department of Homeland Security canpull you over for any reason — without probable cause or a warrant — and do what is termed a “routine search.” As a U.S. Border Patrol agent told journalist Margaret Regan, within a hundred miles of the international divide, “there’s an asterisk on the Constitution.”