company:cbp

  • Sunk Costs. The border wall is more expensive than you think.

    When the federal government builds a border wall, the taxpayer foots two bills. First, there’s the cost to get the thing built, a figure proclaimed in presidential budget requests and press accounts. And second, there’s a slew of concealed costs — expenditures that hide in general operations budgets, arise from human error or kick in years down the line. In the Trump era, those twin outlays combine to make the wall outlandishly expensive.

    Excluding the hidden costs, Trump’s wall is running taxpayers a cool $25 million per mile, up nearly fourfold from just a decade ago. To understand why, it helps to know a little border history. In 1907, the U.S. government took possession of a 60-foot-wide strip of land along the U.S.-Mexico border from California to New Mexico as a buffer zone against smuggling. During his second term, George W. Bush built much of his border wall on this government-owned land. But in Texas, the vast majority of border real estate is privately owned, forcing the government to seize property all along the Rio Grande if it wants to build a barrier. That extra burden is a main reason the Lone Star State hosts a small fraction of existing border fence.

    Then there’s the terrain. For example, in Starr County, an unfenced swath of South Texas that’s high on Customs and Border Protection’s priority list, Trump plans to build on the Rio Grande’s craggy, erosion-prone bank — an engineering challenge that adds millions of dollars per mile. As CBP spokesperson Rick Pauza wrote in an email to the Observer: “Every mile of border is different, and therefore there is no one-size-fits-all cost per mile.” In addition, taxpayers today are buying the luxury edition of the wall: a structure that’s up to 12 feet taller than the Bush-era fence and buffered by a 150-foot “enforcement zone.”

    But all that’s only part of the story. Not included in the $25 million-per-mile figure is a suite of hidden expenses. Among them:

    Routine Maintenance and Operation. Border barriers are potent political symbols. They’re also physical structures that accumulate debris, degrade and break over time. In 2009, CBP estimated that operating and maintaining $2.4 billion worth of fencing, along with associated roads and technology, would cost $3.5 billion over 20 years — almost 50 percent more than the original cost.

    Breaches. Depending on design, border fences can be cut through using either bolt cutters or power tools. From 2010 to 2015, fencing was breached 9,287 times, according to the Government Accountability Office. At an average repair cost of $784, the government spent $7.3 million patching those holes in the wall. And the more new wall, the more breaches.

    Waste. In November 2011, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General issued a scathing report regarding procurement of steel for the border fence. “CBP purchased more steel than needed, incurred additional storage costs, paid interest on late payments, and approved a higher-priced subcontractor, resulting in additional expenditures of about $69 million,” the report read.

    Department of Justice Litigation. Every time landowners refuse to sell their land for the wall, the Department of Justice must take them to court. According to a 2012 planning document prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that legal process costs about $90,000 per tract of land. In sparsely populated Starr County — where property has been passed down for hundreds of years, often without legal record — almost every case must go to court to determine ownership. That money is unaccounted for in congressional appropriations for the wall; it comes instead from the DOJ’s general budget.

    Advertising. When the DOJ wants to take Texans’ property for the wall, the agency must sometimes issue notice to potential heirs in the local newspapers. So far, a DOJ spokesperson said, the agency has done so three times in the Rio Grande Valley — cramming many cases into a single publication. Each instance cost the DOJ about $100,000. At a November court hearing in McAllen, a DOJ attorney lamented the state of local media. “We have one person or corporation who owns both papers — so we can’t really negotiate,” he said. “So it’s a large expenditure.”


    https://www.texasobserver.org/the-border-wall-is-more-expensive-than-you-think
    #murs #barrières_frontalières #coût #prix #coûts_cachés #frontières #USA #Etats-Unis

  • #CBP terminates controversial $297 million #Accenture contract amid continued staffing struggles

    #Customs_and_Border_Protection on Thursday ended its controversial $297 million hiring contract with Accenture, according to two senior DHS officials and an Accenture representative.
    As of December, when CBP terminated part of its contract, the company had only completed processing 58 applicants and only 22 had made it onto the payroll about a year after the company was hired.
    At the time, the 3,500 applicants that remained in the Accenture hiring pipeline were transferred to CBP’s own hiring center to complete the process.

    CBP cut ties with Accenture on processing applicants a few months ago, it retained some services, including marketing, advertising and applicant support.
    This week, the entire contract was terminated for “convenience,” government speak for agreeing to part ways without placing blame on Accenture.
    While government hiring is “slow and onerous, it’s also part of being in the government” and that’s “something we have to accept and deal with as we go forward,” said one of the officials.
    For its efforts, CBP paid Accenture around $19 million in start-up costs, and around $2 million for 58 people who got job offers, according to the officials.
    Over the last couple of months, CBP explored how to modify the contract, but ultimately decided to completely stop work and return any remaining funds to taxpayers.
    But it’s unclear how much money, if any, that will be.

    In addition, to the funds already paid to Accenture, CBP has around $39 million left to “settle and close the books” with the company, an amount which has yet to be determined.
    In November 2017, CBP awarded Accenture the contract to help meet the hiring demands of an executive order on border security that President Donald Trump signed during his first week in office. The administration directed CBP to hire an additional 7,500 agents and officers on top of its current hiring goals.
    “We were in a situation where we needed to try something new” and “break the cycle of going backwards,” said a DHS official about why the agency started the contract.

    Meanwhile, hiring remains difficult for the agency amid a surge of migrants at the southern border that is stretching CBP resources thin.
    It “continues to be a very challenging environment,” said one official about hiring efforts this year.

    In fact, one of the reasons that CBP didn’t need Accenture to process applicants, is because the agency didn’t receive as many applications as it initially planned for.
    The agency has been focused on beating attrition and has been able to recently “beat it by a modest amount,” said the official. “Ultimately we would like to beat it by a heck of a lot, but we’re not there yet.”

    https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/05/politics/cbp-terminate-hiring-contract-accenture/index.html
    #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #USA #Ests-Unis #complexe_militaro-industriel #business

    • Border Profiteers

      On a recent sunny spring afternoon in Texas, a couple hundred Border Patrol agents, Homeland Security officials, and salespeople from a wide array of defense and security contractors gathered at the Bandera Gun Club about an hour northwest of San Antonio to eat barbecue and shoot each other’s guns. The techies wore flip-flops; the veterans wore combat boots. Everyone had a good time. They were letting loose, having spent the last forty-eight hours cooped up in suits and ties back at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez convention center, mingling and schmoozing, hawking their wares, and listening to immigration officials rail about how those serving in enforcement agencies are not, under any circumstances, Nazis.

      These profiteers and bureaucrats of the immigration-industrial complex were fresh from the 2019 #Border_Security_Expo —essentially a trade show for state violence, where law enforcement officers and weapons manufacturers gather, per the Expo’s marketing materials, to “identify and address new and emerging border challenges and opportunities through technology, partnership, and innovation.” The previous two days of panels, speeches, and presentations had been informative, a major in the Argentine Special Forces told me at the gun range, but boring. He was glad to be outside, where handguns popped and automatic rifles spat around us. I emptied a pistol into a target while a man in a Three Percenter militia baseball hat told me that I was a “natural-born killer.” A drone buzzed overhead until, in a demonstration of a company’s new anti-drone technology, a device that looked like a rocket launcher and fired a sort of exploding net took it down. “This is music to me,” the Argentine major said.

      Perhaps it’s not surprising the Border Security Expo attendees were so eager to blow off steam. This year’s event found many of them in a defensive posture, given the waves of bad press they’d endured since President Trump’s inauguration, and especially since the disastrous implementation of his family separation policy, officially announced by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April of 2018, before being rescinded by Trump two-and-a-half months later. Throughout the Expo, in public events and in background roundtable conversations with reporters, officials from the various component parts of the Department of Homeland Security rolled out a series of carefully rehearsed talking points: Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) need more money, personnel, and technology; taking migrants to hospitals distracts CBP officers from their real mission; and the 1997 Flores court settlement, which prohibits immigration enforcement agencies from detaining migrant families with children for more than twenty days, is undermining the very sovereignty of the United States. “We want a secure border, we want an immigration system that has integrity,” Ronald Vitiello, then–acting head of ICE, said in a keynote address to the hundreds of people gathered in San Antonio. “We have a generous immigration system in this country, but it has to have integrity in order for us to continue to be so generous.”

      More of a technocrat than his thuggish predecessor Thomas Homan, Vitiello also spoke at length about using the “dark web” to take down smugglers and the importance of having the most up-to-date data-management technology. But he spoke most adamantly about needing “a fix” for the Flores settlement. “If you prosecute crimes and you give people consequences, you get less of it,” he said. “With Flores, there’s no consequence, and everybody knows that,” a senior ICE official echoed to reporters during a background conversation immediately following Vitiello’s keynote remarks. “That’s why you’re seeing so many family units. We cannot apply a consequence to a family unit, because we have to release them.”

      Meanwhile, around 550 miles to the west, in El Paso, hundreds of migrants, including children and families, were being held by CBP under a bridge, reportedly forced to sleep on the ground, with inadequate medical attention. “They treated us like we are animals,” one Honduran man told Texas Monthly. “I felt what they were trying to do was to hurt us psychologically, so we would understand that this is a lesson we were being taught, that we shouldn’t have crossed.” Less than a week after the holding pen beneath the bridge closed, Vitiello’s nomination to run ICE would be pulled amid a spate of firings across DHS; President Trump wanted to go “in a tougher direction.”

      Family Values

      On the second day of the Border Security Expo, in a speech over catered lunch, Scott Luck, deputy chief of Customs and Border Protection and a career Border Patrol agent, lamented that the influx of children and families at the border meant that resources were being diverted from traditional enforcement practices. “Every day, about 150 agents spend their shifts at hospitals and medical facilities with illegal aliens receiving treatment,” he said. “The annual salary cost for agents on hospital watch is more than $11.5 million. Budget analysts estimate that 13 percent of our operational budget—the budget that we use to buy equipment, to buy vehicles for our men and women—is now used for transportation, medical expenses, diapers, food, and other necessities to care for illegal aliens in Border Patrol custody.”

      As far as Luck was concerned, every dollar spent on food and diapers is one not spent on drones and weapons, and every hour an agent spends guarding a migrant in a hospital is an hour they don’t spend on the border. “It’s not what they signed up for. The mission they signed up for is to protect the United States border, to protect the communities in which they live and serve,” he told reporters after his speech. “The influx, the volume, the clutter that this creates is frustrating.” Vitiello applied an Orwellian inversion: “We’re not helping them as fast as we want to,” he said of migrant families apprehended at the border.

      Even when discussing the intimate needs of detained migrant families, the language border officials used to describe their remit throughout the Expo was explicitly militaristic: achieving “operational control,” Luck said, requires “impedance and denial” and “situational awareness.” He referred to technology as a “vital force multiplier.” He at least stopped short of endorsing the president’s framing that what is happening on the border constitutes an invasion, instead describing it as a “deluge.”

      According to the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, the U.S. immigrant population has continued to grow—although at a slower rate than it did before the 2007 recession, and undocumented people appear to make up a smaller proportion of the overall population. Regardless, in fiscal year 2018, both ICE and CBP stepped up their enforcement activities, arresting, apprehending, and deporting people at significantly higher rates than the previous year. More than three times as many family members were apprehended at the border last year than in 2017, the Pew Research Center reports, and in the first six months of FY 2019 alone there were 189,584 apprehensions of “family units”: more than half of all apprehensions at the border during that time, and more than the full-year total of apprehended families for any other year on record. While the overall numbers have not yet begun to approach those of the 1980s and 1990s, when apprehensions regularly exceeded one million per year, the demographics of who is arriving at the United States southern border are changing: fewer single men from Mexico and more children and families from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—in other words, an ever-wider range of desperate victims of drug gangs and American policies that have long supported corrupt regimes.

      This change has presented people like Luck with problems they insist are merely logistical: aging Border Patrol stations, he told us at the Expo, “are not luxurious in any way, and they were never intended to handle families and children.” The solution, according to Vitiello, is “continued capital investment” in those facilities, as well as the cars and trucks necessary to patrol the border region and transport those apprehended from CBP custody to ICE detention centers, the IT necessary to sift through vast amounts of data accumulated through untold surveillance methods, and all of “the systems by which we do our work.”

      Neither Vitiello nor Luck would consider whether those systems—wherein thousands of children, ostensibly under the federal government’s care, have been sexually abused and five, from December through May of this year, have died—ought to be questioned. Both laughed off calls from migrant justice organizers, activists, and politicians to abolish ICE. “The concept of the Department of Homeland Security—and ICE as an agency within it—was designed for us to learn the lessons from 9/11,” Vitiello said. “Those needs still exist in this society. We’re gonna do our part.” DHS officials have even considered holding migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to the New York Times, where a new $23 million “contingency mass migration complex” is being built. The complex, which is to be completed by the end of the year, will have a capacity of thirteen thousand.

      Violence is the Point

      The existence of ICE may be a consequence of 9/11, but the first sections of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border—originally to contain livestock—went up in 1909 through 1911. In 1945, in response to a shift in border crossings from Texas to California, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service recycled fencing wire and posts from internment camps in Crystal City, Texas, where more than a hundred thousand Japanese Americans had been imprisoned during World War II. “Although the INS could not erect a continuous line of fence along the border, they hoped that strategic placement of the fence would ‘compel persons seeking to enter the United States illegally to attempt to go around the ends of the fence,’” historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, quoting from government documents, writes in Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. “What lay at the end of the fences and canals were desert lands and mountains extremely dangerous to cross without guidance or sufficient water. The fences, therefore, discouraged illegal immigration by exposing undocumented border crossers to the dangers of daytime dehydration and nighttime hypothermia.”

      Apprehension and deportation tactics continued to escalate in the years following World War II—including Operation Wetback, the infamous (and heavily propagandized) mass-deportation campaign of 1954—but the modern, militarized border era was greatly boosted by Bill Clinton. It was during Clinton’s first administration that Border Patrol released its “Strategic Plan: 1994 and Beyond,” which introduced the idea of “prevention through deterrence,” a theory of border policing that built on the logic of the original wall and hinges upon increasing the “cost” of migration “to the point that many will consider it futile to continue to attempt illegal entry.” With the Strategic Plan, the agency was requesting more money, officers, and equipment in order to “enhance national security and safeguard our immigration heritage.”

      The plan also noted that “a strong interior enforcement posture works well for border control,” and in 1996, amid a flurry of legislation targeting people of color and the poor, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which empowered the federal government to deport more people more quickly and made it nearly impossible for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status. “Before 1996, internal enforcement activities had not played a very significant role in immigration enforcement,” the sociologists Douglas Massey and Karen A. Pren wrote in 2012. “Afterward these activities rose to levels not seen since the deportation campaigns of the Great Depression.” With the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2002, immigration was further securitized and criminalized, paving the way for an explosion in border policing technology that has further aligned the state with the defense and security industry. And at least one of Border Patrol’s “key assumptions,” explicitly stated in the 1994 strategy document, has borne out: “Violence will increase as effects of strategy are felt.”

      What this phrasing obscures, however, is that violence is the border strategy. In practice, what “prevention through deterrence” has meant is forcing migrants to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the desert, putting already vulnerable people at even greater risk. Closing urban points of entry, for example, or making asylum-seekers wait indefinitely in Mexico while their claims are processed, pushes migrants into remote areas where there is a higher likelihood they will suffer injury and death, as in the case of seven-year-old Jakil Caal Maquin, who died of dehydration and shock after being taken into CBP custody in December. (A spokesperson for CBP, in an email response, deflected questions about whether the agency considers children dying in its custody a deterrent.) Maquin is one of many thousands who have died attempting to cross into the United States: the most conservative estimate comes from CBP itself, which has recovered the remains of 7,505 people from its southwest border sectors between 1998 and 2018. This figure accounts for neither those who die on the Mexican side of the border, nor those whose bodies remain lost to the desert.

      Draconian immigration policing causes migrants to resort to smugglers and traffickers, creating the conditions for their exploitation by cartels and other violent actors and increasing the likelihood that they will be kidnapped, coerced, or extorted. As a result, some migrants have sought the safety of collective action in the form of the “caravan” or “exodus,” which has then led the U.S. media and immigration enforcement agencies to justify further militarization of the border. Indeed, in his keynote address at the Expo, Luck described “the emerging prevalence of large groups of one hundred people or more” as “troubling and especially dangerous.” Later, a sales representative for the gun manufacturer Glock very confidently explained to me that this was because agents of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, were embedded with the caravans.

      Branding the Border

      Unsurprisingly, caravans came up frequently at the Border Security Expo. (An ICE spokesperson would later decline to explain what specific threat they pose to national security, instead citing general statistics about the terrorist watchlist, “special interest aliens,” and “suspicious travel patterns.”) During his own keynote speech, Vitiello described how ICE, and specifically its subcomponent Homeland Security Investigations, had deployed surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques to monitor the progress of caravans toward the border. “When these caravans have come, we’ve had trained, vetted individuals on the ground in those countries reporting in real time what they were seeing: who the organizers were, how they were being funded,” he said, before going on an astonishing tangent:

      That’s the kind of capability that also does amazing things to protecting brands, property rights, economic security. Think about it. If you start a company, introduce a product that’s innovative, there are people in the world who can take that, deconstruct it, and create their own version of it and sell it as yours. All the sweat that went into whatever that product was, to build your brand, they’ll take it away and slap it on some substandard product. It’s not good for consumers, it’s not good for public safety, and it’s certainly an economic drain on the country. That’s part of the mission.

      That the then–acting director of ICE, the germ-cell of fascism in the bourgeois American state, would admit that an important part of his agency’s mission is the protection of private property is a testament to the Trump administration’s commitment to saying the quiet part out loud.

      In fact, brands and private industry had pride of place at the Border Security Expo. A memorial ceremony for men and women of Border Patrol who have been killed in the line of duty was sponsored by Sava Solutions, an IT firm that has been awarded at least $482 million in federal contracts since 2008. Sava, whose president spent twenty-four years with the DEA and whose director of business development spent twenty with the FBI, was just one of the scores of firms in attendance at the Expo, each hoping to persuade the bureaucrats in charge of acquiring new gear for border security agencies that their drones, their facial recognition technology, their “smart” fences were the best of the bunch. Corporate sponsors included familiar names like Verizon and Motorola, and other less well-known ones, like Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Israel’s largest private defense contractor, as well as a handful of IT firms with aggressive slogans like “Ever Vigilant” (CACI), “Securing the Future” (ManTech), and “Securing Your Tomorrow” (Unisys).

      The presence of these firms—and indeed the very existence of the Expo—underscores an important truth that anyone attempting to understand immigration politics must reckon with: border security is big business. The “homeland security and emergency management market,” driven by “increasing terrorist threats and biohazard attacks and occurrence of unpredictable natural disasters,” is projected to grow to more than $742 billion by 2023 from $557 billion in 2018, one financial analysis has found. In the coming decades, as more people are displaced by climate catastrophe and economic crises—estimates vary between 150 million and 1 billion by 2050—the industry dedicated to policing the vulnerable stands to profit enormously. By 2013, the United States was already spending more on federal immigration enforcement than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, including the FBI and DEA; ICE’s budget has doubled since its inception in 2003, while CBP’s has nearly tripled. Between 1993 and 2018, the number of Border Patrol agents grew from 4,139 to 19,555. And year after year, Democrats and Republicans alike have been happy to fuel an ever more high-tech deportation machine. “Congress has given us a lot of money in technology,” Luck told reporters after his keynote speech. “They’ve given us over what we’ve asked for in technology!”

      “As all of this rhetoric around security has increased, so has the impetus to give them more weapons and more tools and more gadgets,” Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign organizer with Mijente, a national network of migrant justice activists, told me. “That’s also where the profiteering comes in.” She continued: “Industries understand what’s good for business and adapt themselves to what they see is happening. If they see an administration coming into power that is pro-militarization, anti-immigrant, pro-police, anti-communities of color, then that’s going to shape where they put their money.”

      By way of example, Gonzalez pointed to Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who spent $1.25 million supporting Trump’s 2016 election campaign and followed that up last year by donating $1 million to the Club for Growth—a far-right libertarian organization founded by Heritage Foundation fellow and one-time Federal Reserve Board prospect Stephen Moore—as well as about $350,000 to the Republican National Committee and other GOP groups. ICE has awarded Palantir, the $20 billion surveillance firm founded by Thiel, several contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to manage its data streams—a partnership the agency considers “mission critical,” according to documents reviewed by The Intercept. Palantir, in turn, runs on Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing service provided by the world’s most valuable public company, which is itself a key contractor in managing the Department of Homeland Security’s $6.8 billion IT portfolio.

      Meanwhile, former DHS secretary John Kelly, who was Trump’s chief of staff when the administration enacted its “zero-tolerance” border policy, has joined the board of Caliburn International—parent organization of the only for-profit company operating shelters for migrant children. “Border enforcement and immigration policy,” Caliburn reported in an SEC filing last year, “is driving significant growth.” As Harsha Walia writes in Undoing Border Imperialism, “the state and capitalism are again in mutual alliance.”

      Triumph of the Techno-Nativists

      At one point during the Expo, between speeches, I stopped by a booth for Network Integrity Systems, a security firm that had set up a demonstration of its Sentinel™ Perimeter Intrusion Detection System. A sales representative stuck out his hand and introduced himself, eager to explain how his employer’s fiber optic motion sensors could be used at the border, or—he paused to correct himself—“any kind of perimeter.” He invited me to step inside the space that his coworkers had built, starting to say “cage” but then correcting himself, again, to say “small enclosure.” (It was literally a cage.) If I could get out, climbing over the fencing, without triggering the alarm, I would win a $500 Amazon gift card. I did not succeed.

      Overwhelmingly, the vendors in attendance at the Expo were there to promote this kind of technology: not concrete and steel, but motion sensors, high-powered cameras, and drones. Customs and Border Patrol’s chief operating officer John Sanders—whose biography on the CBP website describes him as a “seasoned entrepreneur and innovator” who has “served on the Board of Directors for several leading providers of contraband detection, geospatial intelligence, and data analytics solutions”—concluded his address by bestowing on CBP the highest compliment he could muster: declaring the agency comparable “to any start-up.” Rhetoric like Sanders’s, ubiquitous at the Expo, renders the border both bureaucratic and boring: a problem to be solved with some algorithmic mixture of brutality and Big Data. The future of border security, as shaped by the material interests that benefit from border securitization, is not a wall of the sort imagined by President Trump, but a “smart” wall.

      High-ranking Democrats—leaders in the second party of capital—and Republicans from the border region have championed this compromise. During the 2018-2019 government shutdown, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told reporters that Democrats would appropriate $5.7 billion for “border security,” so long as that did not include a wall of Trump’s description. “Walls are primitive. What we need to do is have border security,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said in January. He later expanded to CNN: “I’ve said that we ought to have a smart wall. I defined that as a wall using drones to make it too high to get over, using x-ray equipment to make it too wide to get around, and using scanners to go deep enough not to be able to tunnel under it. To me, that would be a smart thing to do.”

      Even the social democratic vision of Senator Bernie Sanders stops short at the border. “If you open the borders, my God, there’s a lot of poverty in this world, and you’re going to have people from all over the world,” he told Iowa voters in early April, “and I don’t think that’s something that we can do at this point.” Over a week later, during a Fox News town hall with Pennsylvania voters, he recommitted: “We need border security. Of course we do. Who argues with that? That goes without saying.”

      To the extent that Trump’s rhetoric, his administration’s immigration policies, and the enforcement agencies’ practices have made the “border crisis” more visible than ever before, they’ve done so on terms that most Democrats and liberals fundamentally agree with: immigration must be controlled and policed; the border must be enforced. One need look no further than the high priest of sensible centrism, Thomas Friedman, whose major complaint about Trump’s immigration politics is that he is “wasting” the crisis—an allusion to Rahm Emanuel’s now-clichéd remark that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” (Frequently stripped of context, it is worth remembering that Emanuel made this comment in the throes of the 2008 financial meltdown, at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council, shortly following President Obama’s election.) “Regarding the border, the right place for Democrats to be is for a high wall with a big gate,” Friedman wrote in November of 2018. A few months later, a tour led by Border Patrol agents of the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego left Friedman “more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and that the solution is a high wall with a big gate—but a smart gate.”

      As reasonable as this might sound to anxious New York Times readers looking for what passes as humanitarian thinking in James Bennet’s opinion pages, the horror of Friedman’s logic eventually reveals itself when he considers who might pass through the big, smart gate in the high, high wall: “those who deserve asylum” and “a steady flow of legal, high-energy, and high-I.Q. immigrants.” Friedman’s tortured hypothetical shows us who he considers to be acceptable subjects of deportation and deprivation: the poor, the lazy, and the stupid. This is corporate-sponsored, state-sanctioned eugenics: the nativism of technocrats.

      The vision of a hermetically sealed border being sold, in different ways, by Trump and his allies, by Democrats, and by the Border Security Expo is in reality a selectively permeable one that strictly regulates the movement of migrant labor while allowing for the unimpeded flow of capital. Immigrants in the United States, regardless of their legal status, are caught between two factions of the capitalist class, each of which seek their immiseration: the citrus farmers, construction firms, and meat packing plants that benefit from an underclass of unorganized and impoverished workers, and the defense and security firms that keep them in a state of constant criminality and deportability.

      You could even argue that nobody in a position of power really wants a literal wall. Even before taking office, Trump himself knew he could only go so far. “We’re going to do a wall,” he said on the campaign trail in 2015. However: “We’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall.” In January 2019, speaking to the American Farm Bureau Association, Trump acknowledged the necessity of a mechanism allowing seasonal farmworkers from Mexico to cross the border, actually promising to loosen regulations on employers who rely on temporary migrant labor. “It’s going to be easier for them to get in than what they have to go through now,” he said, “I know a lot about the farming world.”

      At bottom, there is little material difference between this and what Friedman imagines to be the smarter, more humane approach. While establishment liberals would no doubt prefer that immigration enforcement be undertaken quietly, quickly, and efficiently, they have no categorical objection to the idea that noncitizens should enjoy fewer rights than citizens or be subject to different standards of due process (standards that are already applied in deeply inequitable fashion).

      As the smorgasbord of technologies and services so garishly on display at the Border Security Expo attests, maintaining the contradiction between citizens and noncitizens (or between the imperial core and the colonized periphery) requires an ever-expanding security apparatus, which itself becomes a source of ever-expanding profit. The border, shaped by centuries of bourgeois interests and the genocidal machinations of the settler-colonial nation-state, constantly generates fresh crises on which the immigration-industrial complex feeds. In other words, there is not a crisis at the border; the border is the crisis.

      CBP has recently allowed Anduril, a start-up founded by one of Peter Thiel’s mentees, Palmer Luckey, to begin testing its artificial intelligence-powered surveillance towers and drones in Texas and California. Sam Ecker, an Anduril engineer, expounded on the benefits of such technology at the Expo. “A tower doesn’t get tired. It doesn’t care about being in the middle of the desert or a river around the clock,” he told me. “We just let the computers do what they do best.”

      https://thebaffler.com/outbursts/border-profiteers-oconnor

  • Why a #high-tech border wall is as silly as a physical one

    Opinion: Technology is an attractive answer, but it’s no panacea for economic and geopolitical problems at the border.

    There’s a loud and growing chorus of opposition to a physical border wall. That view is shared by leaders of border cities like McAllen, Texas, by every congressman representing a district along our 2000-mile-long southern border, and by the majority of Americans (to say nothing of a long list of bygone societies stretching from the Ming Dynasty to East Germany). Tying a partial government shutdown to funding for the wall has also been deeply unpopular, and the president’s historically low approval ratings were slumping further during the shutdown.

    Out of the political jockeying during the longest partial government shutdown in American history, there’s one idea everyone seems eager to agree on: Technology can help redress serious problems at the border. It’s an attractive, almost magic-sounding solution, lending a Silicon Valley ring to a stale debate. In the rhetorical shoving match over a physical wall, it’s become the rallying cry for those seeking sensible alternatives.

    Unfortunately, border technology is not the panacea many people think. And in many of its applications it runs counter to our core values.

    Increasing border security with a force field of sensing and response technology, what many are calling a digital or virtual wall, isn’t a new idea — in fact, it’s about 50 years old and grew out of strategies and technologies first developed during the Vietnam War. And it hasn’t worked.

    Technology already in place

    There are currently about 12,000 motion and seismic sensors along the U.S. border with Mexico, along with a vast electronic perimeter of radar and high definition cameras. Predator B drones have extended the radar net in places and can pick out a snake slithering through brush a mile away. Miniature facial recognition drones, 3D mapping technology, tethered blimps first developed to guard forward operating bases in Afghanistan, tunnel-navigating ground robots used in Iraq, invisible dyes dropped from the air to mark migrants, and acoustic deterrents of various types have all been tested or deployed along the border. (Here’s an excellent article on the history of this technology buildup by Lauren Etter and Karen Weise.)

    Meanwhile, electronic fingerprinting has been in use by immigration enforcement officials since the 1990s to track the massive flow of people, legal and illegal, across U.S. borders. Border security agents currently have access to military-grade technology like nightscopes, suppressors, infrared and holographic sights, and a thick catalog of tactical weapons and gear.

    We’re not talking about small-scale pilot programs or testbeds, either — far from it. In the mid-2000s, the America’s Shield Initiative and Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System cost taxpayers billions. The objective was “to use the right technology at the right places for the right terrain to … have the rapid response capability to get to the points of intrusions to increase our overall apprehension rate,” CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner told the House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security in 2006.

    Soon after, George W. Bush kicked off the #Secure_Border_Initiative, what he called “the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American History.” And just this past March, the latest government spending bill allocated $400 million for border technology. During what’s become a perennial state of frenzy over illegal immigration, it’s safe to say there’s been a decades-old gold rush to bring tech to the border. Rather than promoting new technology development, battle tested technology has migrated over from the defense sector. Contractors are reaping the benefits.

    And what are the results of all this technology on immigration? Well, here’s how President Trump feels: “We can’t have people pouring into our country like they have over the last 10 years.”

    Scrutinizing that assertion through the lens of reality is an exercise in confronting just how bellicose and misinformed the immigration debate has become, but the important takeaway is that a lot of people believe there’s still a big problem at the border despite the massive investment in technology. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate our faith in a digital fix. Maybe it’s also time to reevaluate the problem.

    https://www.zdnet.com/article/why-a-high-tech-border-wall-is-as-silly-as-a-physical-one
    #technologie #murs #barrières_frontalières #frontières #migrations

  • New Report Details Dozens of Corrupt #Border_Patrol_Agents—Just As Trump Wants to Hire More

    New records obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) reveal that their concerns may not have been misplaced. Since 2016, there have been 40 cases of corruption-related charges against CBP employees, including 13 since Trump took office. Overall, 80 Border Patrol agents and 127 CBP officers have been arrested or charged with corruption-related crimes since 2004. Records show that between February 2017 and mid-March 2018, CBP employees racked up charges including embezzlement, human smuggling, theft, bribery, breaking and entering, money laundering, providing false statements, and using firearms during drug-related crimes.

    In early 2016, the Department of Homeland Security declared that corrupt border agents “pose a national security threat” and found that the CBP had a “broken disciplinary process.” James Tomsheck, the former head of Internal Affairs at CBP, has repeatedly warned about corruption at the agency. He maintains that its background investigations of new employees are sorely lacking, that it sweeps corruption allegations under the rug, and that it largely resists efforts to clean house. In an interview with Mother Jones last year, Tomsheck claimed that the head of the Border Patrol agents’ union had “opposed every integrity proposal” he had made during his eight years at CBP. (The National Border Patrol Council did not respond to requests for comment.)

    Some of the crimes committed by border agents on the job have been extreme. While on patrol in March 2014, Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares kidnapped, assaulted, and raped two Honduran girls and their mother. He committed suicide when FBI agents surrounded his home. In late 2016, the discovery of a headless body a few hundred feet from the shore of South Padre Island in Texas led investigators first to an assassin for the Gulf Cartel and eventually to a Border Patrol agent who had run guns and drugs across the border.

    The 210 corruption cases documented by POGO are just those that have come to light and in which legal action was taken. In 2014, the American Immigration Council published data on 809 complaints of alleged abuse by Border Patrol agents from 2009 to 2012. In 97 percent of the cases, Border Patrol took no action on the complaints. The same year, Tomsheck told Reveal that at least a quarter of violent incidents involving Border Patrol agents were “highly suspect,” adding that “in nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand.” In 2016, Reveal identified 140 CBP officials who had been arrested or convicted for acts of corruption including weapons charges, drug smuggling, and human trafficking.

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/04/new-report-details-dozens-of-corrupt-border-patrol-agents-just-as-trump
    #murs #barrières_frontalières #frontières #corruption #USA #Etats-Unis #gardes-frontière

    • A mettre en lien avec ce que Elisabeth Vallet avait dit à une émission radio à la RTS, dont voici la transcription sur la corruption :

      Et enfin, l’élément important, qui va beaucoup avec l’érection d’un mur et le durcissement des frontières : la corruption des gardes frontaliers . C’est là où l’élément de maîtrise des Etats est le moins évident, parce que plus on recrute de gardes frontaliers pour patrouiller la frontière, plus on doit, et c’est le cas aux Etats-Unis, coupler les contrôles, les background check, donc contrôler un peu d’où viennent les gardes frontaliers, et on en voit déjà l’impact aujourd’hui : il y a des problèmes parce que les gardes n’ont pas été formés de manière adéquate, on a voulu les recruter trop rapidement.

      Source : https://www.rts.ch/play/radio/tout-un-monde/audio/les-murs-de-separation-entre-deux-territoires-de-plus-en-plus-nombreux?id=845669

  • Government paying private firm $297 million to help hire 5,000 Border Patrol agents

    The contract with a division of #Accenture, an international professional services corporation with $35 billion in revenues in 2017, comes at a time when the Border Patrol is struggling to meet minimum staffing levels mandated by Congress and is losing more agents per year than it hires.

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-border-patrol-hiring-20171217-story.html
    #privatisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #gardes-frontière #garde-frontière #frontières #USA #Etats-Unis #Border_patrol_agents #business #argent #industrie_militaro-sécuritaire

    • Top Democrat seeks answers on $297 million recruiting contract for Trump’s immigration crackdown

      If the contract runs its full five-year course, Accenture would be paid $297 million to assist CBP to hire 7,500 new employees, including 5,000 Border Patrol agents, 2,000 customs officers and 500 Air and Marine officers. The company will be paid $42.6 million in the first year, according to federal contracting records.

      http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-border-hires-20180103-story.html

    • Customs and Border Protection Paid $14 Million to Recruit Two Agents, Government Report Finds

      US Customs and Border Protection paid a consulting company nearly $14 million to recruit new agents as the agency struggled to boost staffing levels amid an immigration crackdown. For that fee, the company processed just two successful job offers. The startling figure, along with plans to use a questionable Blade Runner-like lie detection system, is among the findings of a scathing new investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog.

      After receiving multiple complaints, DHS’s Office of Inspector General began investigating a five-year contract worth up to $297 million that CBP, a division of DHS, awarded last year to Accenture Federal Services, a subsidiary of global consulting company Accenture. The contract gives Accenture nearly $40,000 for each of the 7,500 CBP officials—including 5,000 Border Patrol agents—it is supposed to help recruit and hire. The OIG report, released Monday, shows that Accenture’s services have been even more costly than previously known and could put CBP at risk of being sued.

      The watchdog found that Accenture is “nowhere near” meeting its goal of hiring 7,500 people over five years, even though CBP has used many of its own resources to do the job for which it is paying Accenture. “As such, we are concerned that CBP may have paid Accenture for services and tools not provided,” the report states. “Without addressing the issues we have identified, CBP risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.”

      CBP has struggled for years to hire Border Patrol agents. Congress has set a minimum staffing level of about 21,370 agents, but there were just 19,555 agents in 2018. The Accenture contract came in response to President Donald Trump’s January 2017 request for 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents. It is still not clear whether CBP will be able to hire those agents, because Congress has refused to provide the funding for hiring them.

      When CBP awarded Accenture the hiring contract in November 2017, Mother Jones reported in June, it was essentially paying the company for extremely expensive hand-holding throughout the application process for new agents. Accenture was supposed to give applicants “one-on-one” encouragement so they didn’t get “stuck,” according to federal contracting documents. That included reminding them to take their entrance exam and providing “helpful information” about the test. It was also supposed to help applicants schedule their physical fitness test and medical exams.

      Accenture was to assist with all steps of CBP’s hiring process within 90 days of getting the contract. But CBP did not establish metrics to determine whether Accenture was doing that, the report states. OIG’s assessment of Accenture’s effectiveness was particularly damning. “[A]s of October 1, 2018—10 months into the contract—CBP has paid Accenture approximately $13.6 million for startup costs, security requirements, recruiting, and applicant support,” the report found. “In return, Accenture has processed two accepted job offers.”

      CBP disagreed with that characterization in a response included in OIG’s report. “Accenture has created a hiring structure…and conducted many of the hiring steps for several thousand applicants,” Henry Moak, a CBP official wrote. OIG replied that the contracting documents it reviewed show that Accenture and CBP are unable to track applicants recruited by Accenture. “As such,” the report states, “we question the veracity of CBP management’s assertion.”

      Instead of providing a team of hiring experts, OIG found, Accenture “relied heavily” on CBP during the hiring process. A key part of the contract required Accenture to develop a system to track applicants. That did not happen, and the company used CBP’s system instead, according to OIG. Accenture also planned to use a computer program to speed up background investigations and processing of security clearances, but the program didn’t work. The company responded by reviewing security clearance forms manually, which created a backlog.

      OIG is also concerned about Accenture’s decision to use a lie detection system called EyeDetect to screen applicants. The system works by having a computer analyze respondents’ eyes as they answer questions. As Wired reported last week, the National Security Agency found that EyeDetect, a product of technology company Converus, worked no better than random chance at identifying false statements when it tested an early version of the system in 2013. Converus’ own scientists have conducted the only peer-reviewed study of EyeDetect. Yet in August, Accenture deployed EyeDetect at a hiring expo without getting approval from DHS’s science and technology compliance office. Accenture plans to use EyeDetect results to decide whether to keep applicants in its own pool of potential CBP hires or give them to CBP to process. That could put CBP at risk of being sued by applicants if they are held to different standards by Accenture and CBP, according to OIG.

      The lack of funding raises additional questions about why CBP quickly awarded the lucrative contract to Accenture. DHS’s Inspector General found last year that CBP had failed to justify the need for more Border Patrol agents. Congress stated in a March budget document that hiring additional Border Patrol agents was “not supported by any analysis of workload and capability gaps across CBP.”

      CBP has been strangely sympathetic to Accenture’s shortcomings. At one point, Accenture did not know which applicants it was recruiting, so “CBP agreed to give credit and temporarily pay Accenture for a percentage of all applicants regardless of whether CBP or Accenture processed the applicants,” OIG found. CBP also went out of its way to take blame, telling OIG in its responses to the report that it has sometimes failed to clear Accenture staff on time.

      “We disagree,” OIG responded. “Based on our review of contract documentation…CBP has been accommodating Accenture, rather than Accenture accommodating CBP.”

      https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/12/customs-and-border-protection-paid-14-million-to-recruit-two-agents-gov

    • The Border / La Frontera

      For the native nations living along the US-Mexico border, the border is a barbed wire fence through their living room. Over the course of generations, they’ve formed connections on both sides of the border, and yet they’re considered foreigners and illegal immigrants in their ancestral homelands. In the O’odham language, there is no word for “state citizenship.” No human being is illegal.

      In this map, the territories of the #Kumeyaay, #Cocopah, #Quechan, #Tohono_O’odham, #Yaqui, #Tigua, and #Kickapoo are shown straddling the 2,000 mile border, with the red dots along the border representing official border crossings.


      https://decolonialatlas.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/the-border-la-frontera
      #cartographie #visualisation #frontières

    • No wall

      The Tohono O’odham have resided in what is now southern and
      central Arizona and northern Mexico since time immemorial.
      The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 divided the Tohono O’odham’s
      traditional lands and separated their communities. Today, the
      Nation’s reservation includes 62 miles of international border.
      The Nation is a federally recognized tribe of 34,000 members,
      including more than 2,000 residing in Mexico.

      Long before there was a border, tribal members traveled back
      and forth to visit family, participate in cultural and religious
      events, and many other practices. For these reasons and many
      others, the Nation has opposed fortified walls on the border for
      many years.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QChXZVXVLKo


      http://www.tonation-nsn.gov/nowall

    • A Standing Rock on the Border?

      Tohono O’odham activist #Ofelia_Rivas has a reputation for clashing with U.S. Border Patrol. On her tribe’s 4,500-square-mile reservation, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, that can be a stressful vocation. But she doesn’t show it, sharing conversational snippets and a slight, quick grin. Her skin is the color of stained clay, and she cuts a stylish figure: narrow glasses and a red-flecked scarf trailing in the slight breeze. Her black sneakers are gray with dust.


      http://progressive.org/dispatches/a-standing-rock-on-the-border-wall-180406

    • How Border Patrol Occupied the Tohono O’odham Nation

      In March 2018, Joaquin Estevan was on his way back home to Sells, Ariz., after a routine journey to fetch three pots for ceremonial use from the Tohono O’odham community of Kom Wahia in Sonora, Mexico (where he grew up)—a trek his ancestors have made for thousands of years. His cousin dropped him off on the Mexico side of the San Miguel border gate, and he could see the community van of the Tohono O’odham Nation waiting for him just beyond.

      But when Estevan handed over his tribal card for identification, as he had done for years, to the stationed Border Patrol agent, he was accused of carrying a fraudulent ID, denied entry to Arizona and sent back to Mexico.

      Tohono O’odham aboriginal land, in what is now southern Arizona, historically extended 175 miles into Mexico, before being sliced off—without the tribe’s consent—by the 1853 Gadsden Purchase. As many as 2,500 of the tribe’s more than 30,000 members still live on the Mexico side. Tohono O’odham people used to travel between the United States and Mexico fairly easily on roads without checkpoints to visit family, go to school, visit a doctor or, like Estevan, a traditional dancer, perform ceremonial duties.

      But incidents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aggression toward members of the Tohono O’odham Nation have become increasingly frequent since 9/11, as Border Patrol has doubled in size and further militarized its border enforcement. In 2007 and 2008, the United States built vehicle barriers on the Tohono O’odham Nation’s stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, and restricted crossings.

      The Tohono O’odham’s struggles with Border Patrol received little attention, however, until President Donald Trump took office and pushed forward his vision for a wall along the border. Verlon Jose, Tohono O’odham vice chairman, announced in 2016 that the wall would be built “over my dead body,” a quote that went viral.

      What the border wall debate has obscured, however, is the existing 650 miles of walls and barriers on the U.S. international divide with Mexico, including the 62 miles of border that run through the Tohono O’odham Nation. An increasingly significant part of that wall is “virtual,” a network of surveillance cameras, sensors and radar systems that let Border Patrol agents from California to Texas monitor the remote desert stretches where border crossers have been deliberately pushed—a strategy that has led to thousands of migrant deaths in the dangerous desert terrain. The virtual wall expands away from the international boundary, deep into the interior of the country.

      As Trump fights Congress and the courts to get $5 billion in “emergency funding” for a border wall, Border Patrol is already tapping into existing funds to expand both physical and virtual walls. While new border barrier construction on the Tohono O’odham Nation remains in limbo, new surveillance infrastructure is moving onto the reservation.

      On March 22, the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council passed a resolution allowing CBP to contract the Israeli company Elbit Systems to build 10 integrated fixed towers, or IFTs, on the Nation’s land, surveillance infrastructure that many on the reservation see as a high-tech occupation.

      The IFTs, says Amy Juan, Tohono O’odham member and Tucson office manager at the International Indian Treaty Council, will make the Nation “the most militarized community in the United States of America.”

      Amy Juan and Nellie Jo David, members of the Tohono O’odham Hemajkam Rights Network (TOHRN), joined a delegation to the West Bank in October 2017 convened by the Palestinian organization Stop the Wall. It was a relief, Juan says, to talk “with people who understand our fears … who are dealing with militarization and technology.”

      Juan and David told a group of women in the Palestinian community about the planned IFTs, and they responded unequivocally: “Tell them no. Don’t let them build them.”

      The group was very familiar with these particular towers. Elbit Systems pioneered the towers in the West Bank. “They said that the IFTs were first tested on them and used against them,” says David. Community members described the constant buzzing sounds and the sense of being constantly watched.

      These IFTs are part of a broader surveillance apparatus that zigzags for hundreds of miles through the West Bank and includes motion sensor systems, cameras, radar, aerial surveillance and observation posts. In distant control rooms, soldiers monitor the feeds. The principal architect, former Israeli Col. Danny Tirza, explained in 2016, “It’s not enough to construct a wall. You have to construct all the system around it.”

      That is happening now in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

      The massive post-9/11 bolstering of border enforcement dramatically changed life on the Tohono O’odham Nation. At a UN hearing in January on the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of borders, immigration and displacement, Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward Manuel testified that when he came back to the Nation in 2009 after six years living off-reservation, it had become “a military state.”

      Border Patrol has jurisdiction 100 miles inland from U.S. borders, giving it access to the entirety of the reservation. Drones fly overhead, and motion sensors track foot traffic. Vehicle barriers and surveillance cameras and trucks appeared near burial grounds and on hilltops amid ancient saguaro forests, which are sacred to the Tohono O’odham.

      “Imagine a bulldozer parking on your family graveyard, turning up bones,” then-Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. testified to Congress in 2008. “This is our reality.”

      Around 2007, CBP began installing interior checkpoints that monitored every exit from the reservation—not just on the U.S.-Mexico border, but toward Tucson and Phoenix.

      “As a person who once could move freely on our land, this was very new,” Amy Juan says. “We have no choice but to go through the armed agents, dogs and cameras. We are put through the traumatic experience every day just to go to work, movies, grocery shopping, to take your children to school.”

      Juan calls this “checkpoint trauma.” The most severe impact is on children, she says, recalling one case in which two kids “wet themselves” approaching a checkpoint. Previously the children had been forcefully pulled out of a car by Border Patrol agents during a secondary inspection.

      Pulling people out of their vehicles is one in a long list of abuses alleged against the Border Patrol agents on the Tohono O’odham Nation, including tailing cars, pepper spraying people and hitting them with batons. Closer to the border, people have complained about agents entering their homes without a warrant.

      In March 2014, a Border Patrol agent shot and injured two Tohono O’odham men after their truck sideswiped his vehicle. (The driver said he was swerving to avoid a bush and misjudged; Border Patrol charged him with assault with a deadly weapon.) In 2002, a Border Patrol agent ran over and killed a Tohono O’odham teenager.

      Between checkpoints and surveillance, there is a feeling of being “watched all the time,” Tohono O’odham member Joseph Flores told Tucson television station KVOA.

      “I’ve gotten flat tires, then when I come to the checkpoint the agents made comments about me having a flat earlier in the day,” says Joshua Garcia, a member of TOHRN. “I felt like they were trying to intimidate me.”

      An anonymous respondent to TOHRN’s O’odham Border Patrol Story Project said, “One time a BP told me, ‘We own the night,’ meaning that they have so much surveillance cameras and equipment on the rez, they can see everything we do all the time.”

      Undocumented migrants are the ostensible targets, but agents have long indicated that Tohono O’odham are also in the crosshairs. One Tohono O’odham youth (who wishes to remain anonymous because of fears of reprisal) says that when they complained to a Border Patrol agent in February about a camera near their house, the agent responded, “It’s your own people that are smuggling, so you really need to ask yourself what is going on in that area for a camera to be set up in the first place.” That perception is common. Geographer Kenneth Madsen quotes an agent who believed as many as 80% to 90% of residents were involved in drug or human smuggling. Madsen believes the numbers could only be that high if agents were counting humanitarian acts, such as giving water to thirsty border-crossers.

      Elder and former tribal councilman David Garcia acknowledges some “smuggling that involves tribal members.” As Tohono O’odham member Jay Juan told ABC News, there is “the enticement of easy money” in a place with a poverty rate over 40%.

      Nation Vice Chairman Verlon Jose also told ABC, “Maybe there are some of our members who may get tangled up in this web. … But the issues of border security are created by the drugs … intended for your citizen[s’] towns across America.”

      Estevan knew the agent who turned him back at the border—it was the same agent who had accused him of smuggling drugs years prior and who had ransacked his car in the search, finding nothing and leaving Estevan to do the repairs. A few days after being turned away, Estevan tried again to get home, crossing into the United States at a place known as the Vamori Wash—one of the planned locations for an IFT. He got a ride north from a friend (the kind of favor that Border Patrol might consider human smuggling). Eleven miles from the border on the crumbling Route 19, the same agent flashed his lights and pulled them over. According to Estevan, the agent yanked him out of the car, saying, “I told you that you were not supposed to come here,” and handcuffed him.

      Estevan was transported to a short-term detention cell at Border Patrol headquarters in Tucson, where he was stripped of everything “except my T-shirt and pants,” he says. The holding cell was frigid, and Border Patrol issued him what he describes as a “paper blanket.” Estevan contracted bronchitis as he was shuffled around for days, having his biometrics and picture taken for facial recognition—Border Patrol’s standard practice for updating its database.

      At one point, Estevan faced a judge and attempted to talk to a lawyer. But because he was not supplied a Tohono O’odham interpreter, he had only a vague idea of what was going on. Later, Estevan was taken 74 miles north to a detention center in Florence, Ariz., where the private company CoreCivic holds many of the people arrested by Border Patrol. Estevan was formally deported and banished from the United States. He was dropped off in the late afternoon in Nogales, Mexico.

      Estevan is far from the only Tohono O’odham from Mexico to say they have been deported, although there has not been an official count. The Supreme Council of the O’odham of Mexico—which represents the Tohono O’odham who live on the Mexican side of the border—made an official complaint to the Tohono O’odham Nation’s government in May 2018, saying the Nation was “allowing the deportation of our people from our own lands.”

      Some members of the Nation, such as Ofelia Rivas, of the Gu-Vo district, have long contended that the Legislative Council is too cozy with Border Patrol. Rivas said in a 2006 interview that the Nation “has allowed the federal government to control the northern territory [in the U.S.] and allows human rights violations to occur.” The Nation has received grants from the federal government for its police department through a program known as Operation Stonegarden. Over the years, the Legislative Council has voted to allow a checkpoint, surveillance tech and two Border Patrol substations (one a Forward Operating Base) on the reservation.

      These tensions resurfaced again around the IFTs.

      ***

      In 2006, Border Patrol began to use southern Arizona as a testing ground for its “virtual wall.” The agency awarded the Boeing Company a contract for a technology plan known as SBInet, which would build 80-foot surveillance towers in the Arizona desert.

      When Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano cancelled the plan in 2011, complaining about cost, delays and ineffectiveness, CBP launched a new project, the 2011 Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan. As part of it, Elbit Systems won a $145 million contract to construct 53 IFTs in 2014. As CBP’s Chief Acquisition Officer Mark Borkowski explained in 2017 at the San Antonio Border Security Expo, CBP sought technology that “already existed” elsewhere. Elbit, with its towers in the West Bank, fit the bill.

      The IFTs take the all-seeing eye of Border Patrol to a whole new level. Jacob Stukenberg, a Border Patrol public information officer, tells In These Times they are “far superior than anything else we’ve had before,” adding that “one agent can surveil an area that it might take 100 agents on foot to surveil.”

      The IFT system has high-definition cameras with night vision and a 7.5-mile radius, along with thermal sensors and a 360-degree ground-sweeping radar. The data feeds into command centers where agents are alerted if any of thousands of motion sensors are tripped. In an interview in May with the Los Angeles Times, Border Patrol tribal liaison Rafael Castillo compared IFTs to “turning on a light in a dark room.”

      As with other monitoring, the towers—some as tall as 140 feet and placed very visibly on the tops of hills—have already driven migrants into more desolate and deadly places, according to a January paper in the Journal of Borderlands Studies. The first IFT went up in January 2015, just outside of Nogales, Ariz. By 2017, according to Borkowski, nearly all the towers had been built or were about to be built around Nogales, Tucson, Douglas, Sonoita and Ajo. The holdout was the Tohono O’odham Nation.

      Between 2015 and 2018, Joshua Garcia of TOHRN gave more than 30 presentations around the Nation raising the negatives of the IFTs, including federal government encroachment on their lands, the loss of control over local roads, the potential health consequences and racism in border policing. “I didn’t expect people necessarily to agree with me,” Garcia says, “but I was surprised at how much the presentations resonated.”

      Garcia joined other tribal and community members and Sierra Club Borderlands in contesting CBP’s 2016 draft environmental assessment—required for construction to begin—which claimed the IFTs would have “no significant impact” on Tohono O’odham land. Garcia listed the sites that new roads would threaten, like a saguaro fruit-harvesting camp and his own family’s cemetery.

      The Sierra Club argued the assessment had failed to properly look at the impacts on endangered species, such as the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and the lesser longnosed bat, and hadn’t adequately studied how electro-magnetic radiation from the towers might affect people, birds and other wildlife. CBP agreed that more study was needed of the “avian brain,” but issued its final report in March 2017: no significant impact.

      In July 2017, the Gu-Vo district passed a resolution in opposition to the IFTs. “Having the land remain open, undeveloped and home to food production and wildlife, and carbon sequestration with natural water storage is crucial to the community,” the statement read.

      At the March 22 Legislative Council meeting, Garcia, the tribal elder (and a close relative of Estevan), implored the Council not to approve the IFTs. He looked to Councilman Edward Manuel, who had two months earlier described the Border Patrol presence on the Nation as a “military state,” and said, “Veto it, if it passes.”

      The resolution passed, without veto, although with a number of stipulations, including compensation for leased land.

      Nation Vice Chairman Jose told the Los Angeles Times that the vote was intended to be a compromise to dissuade the federal government from building the wall. The Nation is “only as sovereign as the federal government allows us to be,” Jose said.

      A Border Patrol spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times, however, that there are no plans to reduce agents, and that the IFTs do not eliminate the need for a wall.

      ***

      Garcia and other resisters are up against an enormous system. Trump’s plan has never been just about a border wall: The administration wants to fortify a massive surveillance apparatus built over multiple presidencies. Asked in February what he thought about the focus on the wall, Border Patrol’s Stukenberg said it was just one component of border infrastructure. Three things are required—fence, technology and personnel, he said, to build a “very solid system.”

      The endeavor is certainly very profitable. Boeing received more than $1 billion for the cancelled SBInet technology plan. For the 49 mobile surveillance trucks now patrolling the border, CBP awarded contracts to the U.S.-based private companies FLIR Systems and Telephonics. Another contract went to General Dynamics to upgrade CBP’s Remote Video Surveillance Systems, composed of towers and monitoring systems. As of 2017, 71 such towers had been deployed in desolate areas of southern Arizona, including one on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Other major companies that have received CBP contracts include Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and KBR (a former Halliburton subsidiary).

      These companies wield tremendous lobbying power in Washington. In 2018, General Dynamics spent more than $12 million on lobbying and gave $143,000 in campaign contributions to members of the House Homeland Security Committee. To compare, the Tohono O’odham Nation spent $230,000 on lobbying and $6,900 on campaign contributions to the committee members in 2018.

      Meanwhile, at the UN hearing in January, Serena Padilla, of the nearby Akimel O’odham Nation, described an incident in which Border Patrol agents held a group of youth at gunpoint. She ended her testimony: “As a woman who is 65 years old with four children, 15 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren—I’ll be damned if I won’t go down fighting for my future great-great-grandchildren.”

      http://inthesetimes.com/article/21903/us-mexico-border-surveillance-tohono-oodham-nation-border-patrol