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How Immigration Reform Affects Drone Use in Southwest States

by Lucas Eaves, published
Credit: Gerald Nino

Immigration reform and drones

Immigration reform and drones are among the most highly discussed issues in the country. For states bordering Mexico, the two issues are becoming one.

One of the major component of the immigration reform bill proposed by the "Gang of Eight" in Congress is increasing border security -- especially with Mexico. The bill allocates $6.5 billion to this goal, which would not only include the deployment of helicopter and horse patrol at the Southwest border region, but also a greater use of drones.

Article 1106 of the bill, titled "Equipement and Technology," provides:

"ENHANCEMENTS.—The Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, working through U.S. Border Patrol, shall— 1. deploy additional mobile, video, and agent-portable surveillance systems, and unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles in the Southwest Border region as necessary to provide 24-hour operation and surveillance; 2. operate unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles along the Southern border for 24 hours per day and for 7 days per week;"

Not only would the bill create 24/7 drone surveillance over the border region, but it defines the Southern border region as "the area in the United States that is within 100 miles of the Southern border."

This extensive definition would include major cities like San Diego, California; Tucson, Arizona; and the suburbs of Austin, Texas. Millions of people could be affected by the bill.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein has called for an amendment that would reduce the geographic reach of drones. However, this concern is not shared by all senators and the amendment has been delayed for further discussion.

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