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Creating a Military-Industrial-Immigration Complex

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Posted on Jul 11, 2013
CBP Photography (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Todd Miller, TomDispatch

(Page 4)

In addition, Rubio said, the immigration bill would include “four unmanned aircraft systems, six VADER radar systems, 17 UH-1N helicopters, eight C-206H aircraft upgrades, eight AS-350 light enforcement helicopters, 10 Blackhawk helicopter 10 A-L conversions, five new Blackhawk M Model, 30 marine vessels, 93 sensor repeaters, 90 communications repeaters, two card-reader systems, five camera refresh, three backscatters, one radiation portal monitor, one littoral detection, one real-time radioscopy, and improved surveillance capabilities for existing aerostat.”

The reform package calls for “persistent surveillance” and 24/7 drone flights, although the areas of these flights are not specified. Even before the Senate reform bill came into view, San Diego-based General Atomics was awarded a contract that would add 14 more drones to the current fleet of 10 used by Customs and Border Protection (CBP, the parent agency of the Border Patrol).  CBP plans to have 18 drones in flight by 2016 and 24 in the years to follow patrolling U.S. skies over cities such as San Diego, Tucson, and El Paso—not to speak, in the north, of Seattle, Detroit, and Buffalo.

Some of these drones will be equipped with the VADER “man-hunting” radar system, made by Northrup Grumman, used to detect roadside bombers in Afghanistan. Now, even more of this technology will be put to use in the borderlands, where, according to CBP, it is aready locating unauthorized border-crossers. Recently declassified documents also show that CBP has been considering upgrading its drones with “non-lethal” weapons to be able to take down “targets of interest.”

According to the New York Times, other military-industrial behemoths like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are actively looking for “revenue flows” as “wars wind down.” Teams of lobbyists, including former New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato, have been pressing the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of their corporate clients. D’Amato lobbies for the United Technologies Corporation, which stands to make millions off an immigration bill that will okay the purchase of 15 of its Blackhawk helicopters. This is but one example of the increasingly powerful set of corporate interests eager to see immigration reform pass now in the House of Representatives. A vote could come as early as Labor Day.

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But whatever happens, it’s time to stop thinking of all this as “immigration reform.” It represents what may be the most intense concentration of the surveillance state in a single location ever witnessed—a place where the Constitution has an asterisk, which means that anything goes and dystopian worlds of all sorts can be invented.

The Los Angeles Times has written that, if passed, the bill “would also be a boost to defense contractors and an economic stimulus for border communities, creating thousands of jobs that could raise home prices and spur consumer spending around border security stations.” It sounds like Keynesian economics, but of a whole different sort.

In a world where basic services are being cut, an emerging policing apparatus in the borderlands is flourishing. As Mattea Kramer and Chris Hellman reported at TomDispatch in February, since September 11, 2001, the United States has spent $791 billion on “homeland security” alone, an inflation-adjusted $300 billion more than the cost of the entire New Deal.

In those borderlands, we are seeing the birth of a military-industrial-immigration complex.  It seems destined to shape our future.   

Todd Miller has researched and written about U.S.-Mexican border issues for more than 10 years. He has worked on both sides of the border for BorderLinks in Tucson, Arizona, and Witness for Peace in Oaxaca, Mexico. He now writes on border and immigration issues for NACLA Report on the Americas and its blog “Border Wars,” among other places. He is at work on his first book, Border Patrol Nation, for the Open Media Series of City Lights Books.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Todd Miller


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