Tracking a Marked Population
It was mid-day in the Arizona heat during the summer of 2012 and Border Patrol agent Benny Longoria (a pseudonym) and his partner are patrolling the reservation of the Tohono O’odham Nation. It’s the second largest Native American reservation in the country and, uniquely, shares 76 miles of border with Mexico. The boundary, in fact, slices right through O’odham aboriginal lands. For the approximately 28,000 members of the Nation, several thousand of whom live in Mexico, this international boundary has been a point of contention since 1853, when U.S. surveyors first drew the line. None of the region’s original inhabitants were, of course, consulted.
Now Tohono O’odham lands on the U.S. side of the border are one place among many in Arizona where the star performer at Border Security Expo, Elbit Systems of America — whose banner at the entrance welcomed all attendees — will build surveillance towers equipped with radar and high-powered day/night cameras able to spot a human being up to seven miles away. These towers — along with motion sensors spread over the surrounding landscape and drones overhead — will feed information into snazzy operational control rooms in Border Patrol posts throughout the Arizona borderlands.