You cannot hear them. You cannot see them. But Predator drones—pilotless aircraft typically used in combat in Afghanistan and Pakistan—are flying in U.S. air space, scouring the land and sea along U.S. borders in search of large shipments of drugs and undocumented immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security already uses five weaponless Predator drones along the Southwest and Canadian borders for surveillance and tracking and plans to expand their use of drones in the coming months.
Homeland Security officials laud the Predator drones as effective surveillance tools that utilize less human power with greater results. Human-piloted aircraft can be deployed for up to 12 or 13 hours, but pilotless surveillance drones can last up to 22 hours, and with the right weather conditions, drones can survey more land and sea than any other machine. So far, it is estimated that Predator drones have aided in the seizure of more than 22,000 pounds of marijuana and the apprehension of about 5,000 undocumented immigrants.
For immigration activists, however, increased military enforcement at the borders doesn’t get at the real problem. “No amount of militarization will bring peace of mind to the people of the United States,” Jorge-Mario Cabrera, director of communications at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told Sojourners. “A drone can spot warm bodies getting through, but can they inquire about a refugee’s reasons for fleeing his [or her] country of origin?”