The vision for a 21st century border revolves around creating an environment in which people, objects, and information that are legally mandated can flow freely while illegal crossings are prevented. On the one hand, it promised to provide the infrastructure and technologies to ensure efficient and safe border crossings. This issue is particularly important to South Texans since retail sales have sharply dropped due mainly to Mexican residents having a harder time crossing the border and shopping. The plan for the 21st Century Border is vague on how border crossings will be made more efficient (see excerpt from press release below). The language suggests better integration of data across all sectors of law enforcement and perhaps, though not stated directly, the use of biometric identification cards. The Vision also suggests the use of better technologies to secure the border and prevent illegal crossings. Again, it is vague as to how this technological shift will be accomplished. Does this mean more unmanned drones? What about the failures of virtual fencing? As in most security discussions, actors hold the promise of new technologies high as a way to resolve our security needs while respecting civil rights.
On a more positive note, the Vision calls for consultation with local stakeholders and government officials. One can hope that these consultations will be wide-ranging and that border security decisions will be made with respect for human rights.
One issue remains: while the federal government introduces new technologies, drug cartels and others involved in illegal activities will search for ways to thwart these security measures. Are we more densely interlocking ourselves in a spiral that will lead to more violence and militarization? Are new technologies always the most humane and effective solution?
Below is a partial description of the system from DHSs’ website:
“The result will be a future state in which cross-border travel and in-country immigration activities are simple and convenient for eligible, low-risk persons, and virtually impossible for those who seek to do harm or violate U.S. laws. It will be a state in which decision-makers have complete access to the information they need, when and where they need it, to make the best, most informed decision every time. It will be an environment where technology is used to address the challenges posed by volume, speed, and distance and where best practices from across the Government and private sector are shared and leveraged.
The future will be an environment in which all parties – federal, state, local, and foreign governments as well as the private sector – coordinate, cooperate and collaborate to achieve the immigration and border management mission. These improvements will enhance the integrity of our immigration system and scrupulously protect the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens and foreign visitors.”