Texas lawmakers are debating the use of drones at the U.S.-Mexico border as a security measure to help deter people from entering the country illegally.
Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas expressed his concern with the idea to expand drone presence at the border, while lobbyists for the drone manufacturer General Atomics supported expansion as a way to increase border security and grow its business.
“The defense industry is trying to ‘defense-ify’ the border — and treat it as a problem or a security threat that has a military-like solution,” O’Rourke said, according to Politico.
General Atomics is reportedly intensifying its efforts to persuade lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to increase the use of drones at the border, even though the first batch of drones reportedly didn’t work as effectively as advertised.
While the Department of Homeland Security, which controls Customs and Border Protection, has questioned whether or not drones are an effective tool for stopping people crossing the border illegally, a top official reportedly said it does not plan to acquire any additional systems, reports Politico.
“Other than replacing one that we lost, we have no plans and did not have any plans for quite some time to buy additional ones,” Customs and Border Protection head R. Gil Kerlikowske said. “Some people kind of thought that these unmanned aircraft were the end-all and be-all. It is another tool in the toolbox. … (But) I’ve gone down to Texas and watched how they’re utilized, or Arizona — they can be valuable.”
The debate over drones at the border has been happening for some time, with O’Rourke even speaking out against the expansion early last year.
“Those drones have the capabilities of not just looking at the very narrow band of the U.S.-Mexico border,” O’Rourke said at the time. “We already bear the brunt of so much bad border policy that there’s already the understanding that, to a large degree, your civil liberties are suspended.”
Photo credit: General Atomics product image, WikiCommons