Construction of barriers along the US-Mexico border is continuing, even as COVID-19 continues to ravage the nation. American citizens in border communities, however, have protested the construction projects due to the increased presence of workers in these municipalities and thus larger breeding ground for the virus.
In a statement, US Customs and Border Protection declared that border barrier construction must continue because it allows its agents, "to decide where border crossings take place, not smugglers." It went on to note, "Illegal drug and human smuggling activities have decreased in those areas where barriers are deployed. Illegal cross-border traffic has also shifted to areas with inferior, legacy barriers or no barriers at all."
In the midst of the virus, the agency is struggling to grasp a new reality in which it is suffering with manpower shortages but more ground to monitor. In order to continue to achieve its mission, it has increasingly turned to technology and aerial surveillance. Along the Rio Grande river, tall white towers dot the shore. Atop each of these are remote control cameras with thermal imaging capabilities. In the sky, large white blimps, which Customs and Border Protection salvaged from a Department of Defense program, keep portions of the area under surveillance from above. Furthermore, the federal government has placed networks of underground sensors to detect movement and notify agents of activity, like illegal immigrants or smugglers moving across riverbanks and dirt trails.
As of April 27, 2020, the US government has completed a total of 170 miles (273 kilometers) of border wall, with another 180 miles (290 kilometers) under construction.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.