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Bring on the Predator drone, bring on the pork

by Published on

Does the Texas-Mexico border really need a Predator drone to patrol the border from Brownsville to El Paso?

Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, is pushing for a drone to patrol the border. These are the same drones that are bombing Pakistani tribal areas.  Of course, this drone won’t be loaded with missiles – at least not yet.

The San Antonio Express-News reported last weekend that Cuellar would push for a drone to monitor the Texas-Mexico border during a meeting in April with Homeland Security officials and officials from the Federal Aviation Administration.

According to the Express-News “He said the technology could enhance efforts on the ground and boost surveillance in areas where terrain makes it difficult to patrol or observe and that the Rio Grande’s challenges include “Mexican drug cartels, gangs and human smuggling.”

Each one of these drones costs $4.5 million.  They also seem to have a propensity for crashing, according to the Congressional Research Service. Further on in the article the reporter touches on some important details “The FAA has raised safety concerns about drones operating in heavily traveled airspace. Drones are twice as likely to crash as manned aircraft, according to an analysis compiled by the Congressional Research Service.”

Okay, that’s scary. He also goes on to point out that  “A Predator drone was part of the Arizona Border Control Initiative, combining federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, until it crashed in 2006, according to a Congressional Research Service report.”

I think border residents should have the opportunity to be briefed on the security concerns. The Texas border is much more heavily populated than the Arizona border. Imagine having a drone crash in your backyard? Border residents should also have input on whether they want an unmanned predator drone circling over their communities. The border has already become so militarized, and now besides the wall, the video cameras, the ground sensors, the soldiers and Border Patrol agents we’ve got a Predator drone circling overhead. “Eyes in the skies,” Cuellar calls it.

This is great news for the U.S. firm General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which makes the multi-million dollar Predator drones,  but not so great for border communities and their civil liberties.

Where does the militarization end?

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.