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After a standoff between President Obama and Texas Republicans, President Obama has agreed to spend $500M USD to expand border patrol and new Reaper drones to patrol the skies.  (Source: AP)

The Reaper drones will hunt for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.  (Source: AP)

The move comes amid southern states' controversial crackdown on illegal immigration and opposition to providing Mexicans a path to citizenship.  (Source: AP)
Drones will help monitor Mexican and U.S. nationals, watch for illegal immigrants and drugs

Amid a heated debate over legislation passed earlier this year in Arizona aimed at identifying, prosecuting, and deporting illegal immigrants, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will be increasing the number of unmanned drones used to patrol the U.S. Mexican border, hunting for drugs and illegal immigrants.

The Federal Aviation Administration has granted the DHS permission to launch missions from along the border, including Texas, and along the Gulf Coast region.  The Customs and Border Protection department will maintain a drone at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station in Texas.  That drone will likely be used to hunt down groups of people crossing the border illegal, alerting authorities to apprehend them.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy will also be cooperating with the DHS on using other drones on drug-enforcement related missions.  The collaborative effort is dubbed "Operation Roadrunner" and will scan license plates on the U.S. side of the border to try to spot known drug traffickers.

The DHS will also be working with the Justice Department to implement a cooperative framework to share drone-related info with the state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies.  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's plan involves cities not on the border, but in the general area providing additional resources to the border towns.

The drones used in most of the patrol will be the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, a large, versatile UAV sometimes referred to as the Predator B.  The Reaper can carry a heavy amount of ordinance, but it would be assumed that the border patrol drones will be unarmed.  The drones can be outfitted with a variety of sensors.

Thus far the U.S. Border Patrol and Customs has only used 6 Predator B drones, the first of which was deployed in Arizona in October 2005.  That drone contributed to the seizure of four vehicles and 8,267 pounds of marijuana [PDF].  That success encouraged the Border Patrol to establish more patrols of the Mexican and Canadian borders.  One drone is based in North Dakota, at the UAS Operations Center in Grand Forks, four in Arizona, at the UAS Operations Center in Sierra Vista and one based at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the drones will be their use in detecting and capturing illegal immigrants.  President Obama, an advocate of immigration reform, was reportedly reticent to increase government spending to deploy more drones to track illegal immigrants and drugs on the border.  However, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) forced Obama's hand by blocking the confirmation of Michael Huerta to be deputy director of the FAA.  They now are going to received the $500M USD in extra federal spending they wanted, and at least two more drones.

Mexico is one of the heaviest sources of illegal immigration.  Of the 11 million illegal immigrants who participated in a 2008 study by the Center for Immigration Studies, 57 percent, or roughly 6.3 million individuals came from Mexico.  


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By Daniel8uk on 6/24/2010 12:34:00 PM , Rating: -1
I'm guessing it won't be long until the people in power deem it necessary to arm these drones and count any dead Americans as 'collateral damage' in the war against drug smugglers and illegal immigrants.

RE: Hmm
By Kanazozo on 6/24/2010 1:37:09 PM , Rating: 2
Right, because thats what Americans do? We are so terrified of collateral damage that we do what needs doing. I had a friend deployed in Iraq who's convoy was pinned down under very heavy fire several years back. Our troops were getting shot and killed, and an air strike on the fortified enemy position was denied because it was 400 yards from a Mosque. I dont know how many good men and women died because of our efforts to keep the international community happy (and disuade the perception that Americans are bomb-dropping monsters), but even 1 was 1 too many.

No - we will not arm a drone to bomb illegal immigrants because thats not what Americans do. Your assertion of its inevitability is rediculous and just reaffirms the fact that some have a horribly tainted perspective of our country.

RE: Hmm
By Kanazozo on 6/24/2010 1:38:04 PM , Rating: 2
".. DONT do what needs doing" (Im missing that edit button about now)

RE: Hmm
By YashBudini on 6/24/2010 2:17:38 PM , Rating: 1
Stories like yours were recently covered by the NY Times.

RE: Hmm
By MrBlastman on 6/24/2010 2:21:46 PM , Rating: 2
He's from the UK. If I were him, I'd be far more worried about his OWN government using cameras, drones and surveillance equipment to carry out executions on offending citizens there than here.

They are quickly becoming a police state.

RE: Hmm
By DigitalFreak on 6/24/2010 4:00:04 PM , Rating: 1
They should load the Reapers for bear and take out any illegals trying to cross the border. Hell, I'd sign up for piloting one of those babies.

RE: Hmm
By Aenslead on 6/26/2010 1:31:12 AM , Rating: 2
Oh, don't get too exited - probably one of those Mexican cartels "we" provide with fireguns and ammo will take them down almost inmediately, or better yet, they will figure out the silly and simplistic logic behind those multi-million tax-payer dollar aircrafts and their nutshell pilots.

Yeah, yeah, yeah... build a wall, put some drones, kill some folks - in the end, useless.

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