Skip to comments.Citizens launch drones to patrol Mexican border
Posted on 09/07/2003 3:31:18 AM PDT by sarcasm
WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security is considering the use of unmanned drones along U.S. borders to find illegal immigrants, but a citizen group is beating the agency to the punch.
The group, American Border Patrol, purchased and equipped three large model airplanes with cameras and night vision systems and began using them for patrols last week. It has set up radio sensors along a stretch of the Texas-Arizona border to help guide the drones.
"We're ready to go," said Glenn Spencer, who leads and largely finances the Sierra Vista, Ariz., group. "We'll be out there flying along the border, sending the images night and day."
The group's goal is to eventually monitor the entire U.S.-Mexican border and post numbers of illegal immigrants missed by the U.S. Border Patrol on the Internet or on television every day, he said.
"Our objective is to say, like a traffic report, 'Yesterday, 4,800 people tried to enter the United States illegally, and the Border Patrol successfully stopped 2,600 of them. . . . The rest are on the way to your schools, hospitals and jobs,' " Spencer said.
The group's Web site recently featured a story congratulating its mascot -- a 10-month-old German shepherd -- for finding its first "suspected border intruders." The dog located 37 immigrants during a pre-dawn walk. They later were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, the site said.
Spencer's group and others like it have alarmed immigration advocates, who say the citizen patrols are vigilante mobs motivated by xenophobia and racism.
The Border Action Network, an advocacy group for immigrants, has launched a campaign to find Mexicans and other immigrants who have been mistreated by citizen border patrol groups while trying to enter the United States illegally. The idea behind the effort -- which includes billboards, posters and radio spots -- is to help the immigrants file civil cases against the groups.
"Enough is enough," Gustavo Lozano, a member of the network, said at the campaign's launch earlier this year. "These groups have hunted Mexicans and other immigrants with dogs, guns and high-tech surveillance equipment. We've heard reports of beatings, deaths and other abuses."
Spencer denied the American Border Patrol is a vigilante organization or engaged in any such actions.
"We've never stopped anybody. We do not apprehend anyone," he said. The group simply spots illegal immigrants and calls the authorities, he said.
Spencer was arrested in August, but not on the border. He was taken in for firing a rifle on his property and hitting a neighbor's garage. Spencer said he fired the gun to scare off what he thought might be an intruder because he had received death threats.
Mario Villarreal, a spokesman for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, said the bureau encourages citizens to report suspicious activity along the border.
"We appreciate the community's help and support," he said.
But Villarreal added that the government discourages private parties "from taking matters into their own hands" and that all efforts should be "within the parameters of the law."
Villarreal said the U.S. Border Patrol hasn't purchased any drones but is seriously considering doing so. The agency tested drones in the late 1990s in south Texas and participated in an operation last year in which a military drone was used to catch a drug smuggler on the Canadian border, he said.
Spencer's three drones, which he said range in cost from $12,000 to $21,000, have internal electronic guidance systems and camera transmitters. They fly at an altitude of about 300 feet and are able to send and receive radio signals to and from a van where members of the group monitor computer screens.
Sensors the group has planted at various locations in the desert detect the presence of people. The group then can send the drones to check those locations.
Spencer, who previously led an immigration control group in Los Angeles, said he was using $180,000 of his own money to fund the American Border Patrol.
"I have bet everything I've got on this thing," he said. "If it doesn't work, if it fails, I will be working at McDonald's."
But if the drones work and the video can be broadcast live, Spencer said he expects donations to start pouring in.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have been used for monitoring since the 1950s, but they came into vogue for military use in the 1980s. They played a starring role in the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Most often they are used for military intelligence gathering, reconnaissance and surveillance. Some also can carry armaments. A strike in Yemen late last year on a vehicle believed to be carrying members of the al-Qaida terrorist network was widely believed to have involved a Predator drone firing a Hellfire missile.
The Pentagon is exploring even more uses for drones and plans to spend several billion dollars in coming years developing them.
Already the military has a wide range of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Marine Corps Dragon Eye, for example, weighs only about 5 pounds and has a wingspan of 45 inches. It is designed to fit in a backpack and can fly for about an hour, giving troops a television view of what is just ahead of them.
The Global Hawk, on the other hand, is 44 feet long and has a wingspan of 116 feet.
It can fly as high as 65,000 feet, stay in the air for 24 hours and, the military says, survey in one day an area equivalent to the state of Illinois.
...mainly, at the hands of the coyote gangs who pay my salary. Excuse me, won't you? I've got to call Agua Prieta, for orders....
Yeah, haven't you driven the Pacific Coast Highway from Kentucky through there? It's a lovely stretch of roadway but watch out for the coyote crossings.
Looking at a map, Texas-Arizona may be there way of saying Texas "to" Arizona
If for no other reason than American Patrol giving the impression that the job can be done so cheap.
Doesn't Glenn Spencer have the decency to have a little consideration for the Defense and Security contractors that have invested their valuable time and the weight of their considerable political connections behind a scheme to defraud the U.S. Taxpayers out of billions for endless, meaningless studies and worthless, redundant research and development?
Sure anybody can build drones for $12,000 to $27,000 each, but you can't sell them to the governmental agencies for that and still have money left over for bribes, mega-buck campaign contributions, gifts, travel junkets, limo rides, fancy, expensive cars, plush office space, lap dances, strip joints, hookers, etc..
That's why there need to be laws passed to keep private citizens out of these concerns!
They don't understand how the system works. ;^)
That's why there need to be laws passed to keep private citizens out of these concerns! They don't understand how the system works. ;^)
@ First, I thought you were Joking...then I realized, your weren't... :(( Damn the last four Admin.
Reagan did try in 1986...Immagrant Reform Act...I think...It was to cure these ills/problems....but, course the 'Rats are playing the Racism card...again. :((
For example, Congressman Sylvestri's daughter.
-$200 million dollar no-bid contract.
-Totally cheap, obsolete junkie cameras and sensors installed on the borders that never worked right even for a day.
-Millions more wasted on useless, ineffectual repairs.
-Illegal immigration actually increased, because the camera installation gave politicians a cover story for sending the National Guard home.
-Plenty of millions left to spread around to all her friends and relatives.
Now, there's a contractor that understands how sell to the government.
Freepmail me if you wish to be removed from or added to this list!
For what it's worth, the impression given by the Atlanta rag is that this is new. Glen Spencer and his group have been doing this for nearly 6 months now. The press was invited to come down and check it out this spring. I wonder why the editor of said rag has squelched this story until now, and why now is it ok to run with it? What's up?
Actually, there is some news to this story. The ABP have been flying the UAVs in an experimental mode. On Monday or Tuesday they will go fully operational with the UAVs. I got a tour of their UAV control van today by Glenn Spencer and got the news from him. And he's got quite a story about the company that was going to provide the guidance systems. Another company in Tucson decided they wanted to sell this type of UAV to the Border Patrol and shut ABP out of ordering from the company in California. So, ABP found a similar guidance system that could guide the UAV but not communicate with the ground (for course changes or telemetry data). So, ABP built it themselves. Last time I was in the HQ they were etching their own circuit boards and such.