Border Patrol Council head skeptical of Mexico investment
(NewsNation) — Mexico’s commitment to invest $1.5 billion into smart border technology might improve trade and travel, but won’t help curb unauthorized crossings, according to Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
That money will likely be funneled into the ports of entry — not between the ports, where Judd said most unauthorized crossings occur.
“If ports of entry were the problem, if that’s where the chaos existed, I would applaud this,” Judd said. “I would say this is great. But the ports of entry is not where the problem is.”
President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law includes $3.4 billion to undertake 26 major construction and modernization projects at land ports of entry on the northern and southern borders.
Mexico has additionally committed to investing $1.5 billion toward border infrastructure through 2024, according to a joint statement the countries’ presidents issued Tuesday. It comes weeks after dozens of migrants were found dead in an abandoned trailer outside San Antonio, Texas.
“The tragic deaths of migrants at the hands of human smugglers in San Antonio further strengthens our determination to go after the multi-billion-dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and increase our efforts to address the root causes of migration,” the presidents said in their joint statement.
Deploying resources to the wrong areas, however, won’t achieve those goals, Judd said.
Cartels “know that all they have to do is flood Border Patrol resources,” Judd said. “Well, Border Patrol works between the ports of entry.”
Both governments have not yet provided specifics on what the money will be used for at the border.
In 2021, the Biden administration proposed “smart wall” legislation that included collecting biometric data and mentioned improving “non-intrusive equipment, and radar and aerial surveillance equipment.” The proposal was met with backlash from members of the president’s own party over privacy concerns, The Hill reported.
“We don’t know exactly how these tax dollars are going to be spent, but what we know from years of wasteful spending is that a ‘smart border’ is a really dumb idea,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the New-York-based anti-surveillance group Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. “This technology fails to actually do what it’s marketed to do but what it can do is collect a lot of invasive information, not just about people crossing the border, but people who simply live near it.”
Cahn worries that current and future contributions from Mexico could lead to “invasive” practices at the border.
“The border is becoming a testing ground for the authoritarian technology of the future and people are paying a really high price,” Cahn said. “It’s just really disappointing that we’re seeing so much money wasted on a PR stunt that we know won’t actually address the root causes of migration and won’t address the real threats that are driving people to the US to, say, seek safety.”
Around 175 solar-powered autonomous towers already exist along the southern border. They rely on a combination of radar, cameras and thermal imaging to feed information to an artificial intelligence system to help detect vehicles or people and alert Border Patrol to their presence.
The use of such technology is expanding, and Cahn fears increased use of “error-prone and biased” facial recognition software, drones or social media monitoring.
The Department of Homeland Security has said its use of surveillance has the potential to protect officers and lead to higher conviction rates of illegal activity.
“We want to see instability in the cartels,” Judd said. “If there’s instability in the cartels, it makes it harder for them to implement their programs and their operations.”