By Christina Rosalita
One of Trump’s campaign promises was to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. It was a popular political rally cry, but a physical wall spanning the entire border is, in reality; a boondoggle of an idea pushed by the fear mongering of propaganda politics. The false promise of the wall is to block border crossings, but it can’t accomplish this without an array of costly technological systems and personnel1. Estimated costs for just the wall range from $20 to upwards of $70 billion, with $150 million needed yearly for maintenance. This could easily become a wasteful testing ground to experiment with paramilitary surveillance technologies and brutally aggressive law enforcement tactics. There are already three drones2 in operation that are not yet weaponized and human rights violations of Mexican citizens are on the rise.
Recent attacks on Mexican citizens by border patrol agents include Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez3 on October 10th, 2012 who was fatally shot, from the US side, ten times in the back while simply walking in his border town of Nogales, Sonora. Another victim, Guillermo Arevalo4, had his life taken on September 12, 2012. He and his family were among many that day enjoying a picnic along the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. A Border Patrol boat approached along the river and suddenly opened fire on the crowd killing Guillermo Arevalo. The incident, caught on tape, shows border patrol agents fleeing the scene. In both of these attacks, border patrol agents later claimed that rocks were being thrown at them. Eye-witnesses report there were no rocks being thrown. The same claim of rocks being thrown was made by a border patrol agent in the slaying of 15 year old Sergio Adrian Hernandez5. The incident was recorded and disproved this claim. With such rampant human rights abuses occurring with inadequate to no accountability, comments from former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying the president wanted to “take the shackles off” the nation’s immigration and customs agents is cause for great concern and increased awareness of what this wall and subsequent influx of paramilitary so-called solutions could really mean.
For such an extensive project the concern isn’t just mission creep it’s viral spread. This year, sheriffs of every border county will begin collecting iris scans to create individualized biometric databases6 on a massive scale. Beyond that looms drones to surveil – weaponized varieties for worse RFIDs for tagging, radar and sensors for tracking, and autonomous robotic patrols. This is far from a full and comprehensive list, there is much more that could be discussed and many combinations. For example the robotic patrols7 in the form of small autonomous vehicles that will be unleashed on the population of Dubai later this year can be equipped with biometric software and even their own drone. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology uses electromagnetic waves to communicate with computer systems. Such capabilities can be implemented into a tracking system with many variations of invasiveness. This is a rapidly developing technology that has already pushed beyond bulky microchips and can be incorporated into networks at molecular scale levels.
These technologies are not only developing rapidly, but they have advanced far beyond current policy and real public understanding of their capabilities and subsequent far reaching sociopolitical effects. Excessive secrecy, community spying, and media glorification of violence act to distract and disorient a population. And all too often the people that sacrifice the most to bring us vital information are maligned, dehumanized, and discredited. We can begin to more effectively defend our rights by encouraging people willing to step forward and blow the whistle on corruption and by becoming involved in advocating for policy that promotes oversight and accountability of surveillance technologies.
Christina Rosalita is a member of Oakland Privacy.