Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Donate your vehicle during the month of April or May and you'll be entered into a $500 Visa gift card drawing!

Trump Uses Border Security Funding As Condition Of Potential DACA Deal


Congress and the president are trying to reach a deal on DACA, the program that allows people who came to the U.S. illegally as children to remain here. President Trump has said that any deal has to include more funding for border protection beyond a wall. We're going to talk now about how such funding might be used. Brandon Behlendorf teaches at the University of Albany in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. Welcome to the program.


SHAPIRO: Let's imagine that a deal goes through that dramatically increases the budget of the Border Patrol. What would that money likely be used for?

BEHLENDORF: The primary purpose would be for personnel and to increase the number of agents deployed along the southern border. A secondary purpose would be to bolster technology utilized to detect and interdict individuals crossing between ports of entry.

SHAPIRO: What kind of technologies are we talking about, drones or facial identification, surveillance? Like, what's the cutting edge right now?

BEHLENDORF: Primarily the most deployable technology is surveillance cameras, things that are known as Integrated Fixed Towers, which are a series of camera capabilities and radar and other sensors that provide a wide-area surveillance capability in a lot of under-populated and open areas, especially along the southern border.

SHAPIRO: So I'm imagining - is somebody, like, sitting in an office with a bank of television screens with footage coming in from a bunch of these surveillance cameras. And when one of them picks somebody up, then they go out and apprehend that person. Is that how this works?

BEHLENDORF: To some degree. They're going to already have agents on patrol in various locations, but those cameras are meant to provide a much broader swath of view for individuals at the border patrol station or at the sector headquarters.

In addition, they have a number of other sensors along the border that are based upon vibration that can determine whether someone might be trying to pass through a particularly high-trafficked or known area. And then lastly, they've got a series of mobile camera systems that can be deployed in more urban locations where things like radar are less effective.

SHAPIRO: I think a lot of us have heard stories of camera systems that were placed along the border at great expense that agents stopped using because they went off every time a jackrabbit passed by. Is there a potential for new money to be spent on a lot of expensive technology that actually does not result in more effective law enforcement?

BEHLENDORF: There's always that potential with any technology deployment. The program you're referring to, known as SBInet - started in 2006, ended in 2010 - had ran into a lot of problems and complications and overall was not as effective along the border.

But you're talking about 10 years of technological development between now and then. And so the technology that they're deploying along the border is more effective and can provide a lot more surveillance capability. But there always is that potential. And so you want to make sure you invest in the right technology at the right locations and make sure that it can weather the harsh conditions along the border.

SHAPIRO: Are we mostly talking about buying more of the things that are already in use at the border, or are we talking about putting systems into place that are not there yet?

BEHLENDORF: Primarily you're talking about systems that are currently deployed in a limited area that have undergone significant amounts of testing and deploying them more widely across the border, like the Integrated Fixed Towers system or remote video sense - surveillance capabilities that are currently in Arizona but are looking to be deployed in Texas and in other parts of the southern border.

SHAPIRO: When you talk to border agents about what they would do with more money with new technology, is there a sense that, oh, if we only had this one thing, then we could be so much more effective? Or is it more of a sense of, oh, there are lots of cool bells and whistles out there, lots of new toys that we could play with; let's try some of these things?

BEHLENDORF: Essentially the first answer you're going to get is personnel. We need more agents along the border - is something that they are going to highlight. But I think the second part of the answer there is, how can we make sure that technology works with the way that agents are deployed now? Rather than using and creating new systems that have to involve a lot of training, how can we figure technology that works alongside how border patrol already conducts their mission and reduce some of that gap between technology development and actual deployment on the border?

SHAPIRO: Brandon Behlendorf of the University of Albany, thanks for joining us.

BEHLENDORF: Thank you very much, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.