The United States-Mexico border has become a war zone. It is also a transfer station for sophisticated American military technology and weapons. As our country’s foreign wars have begun to wind down, defense contractors look here, on the southern border, to make money.
Lately it has become entirely normal to look up into the Arizona sky and to see Blackhawk helicopters and fixed-wing jets flying by. On a clear day, you can sometimes hear Predator B drones buzzing over the Sonoran border. These drones are equipped with the same kind of “man-hunting” Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (Vader) that flew over the Dashti Margo desert region in Afghanistan.
The Department of Homeland Security, which includes Customs and Border Protection, plans to invest billions more in borderland surveillance towers, drones and helicopters if the House adopts the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed in June.
Even if it doesn’t pass, there is more than $1 billion in the federal budget for surveillance towers that will likely be clustered around the Arizona desert lands, near Mr. Loew’s farm, where most undocumented migrants cross the border.
The Republican senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota added a proposal to the immigration bill that would provide about $40 billion in financing for extra agents and 700 miles of fencing along the United States’ southern boundary, which Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, noted would become “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Indeed, if the Senate’s bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, passes in the House, the Border Patrol will swell to 40,000 agents, making it the size of a small army.
Mr. Loew says he wonders if the agents were veterans, since so many Border Patrol recruits seem to be ex-military men; in fact, almost one-third of all agents have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s no wonder that more and more people in the 100-mile zone from across the political spectrum view the Border Patrol as an occupying army.
If immigration reform passes, it will mark another milestone in a transformation that has already resulted in the creation of a war-zone-like area in which agents enjoy special powers to chase down, question and detain people.