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CBP Deploys Surveillance Blimp Over Nogales, Arizona

by Anthony W. Accurso

Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) launched its 17th surveillance blimp in June 2022, this time in a stationary location over Nogales, Arizona.

CBP put out a press release about the blimp the day before it was launched, though it did not directly notify the residents of Nogales or consult with city officials on the launch.

The blimp is tethered about a quarter mile from a residential neighborhood and about a mile from the border. It can hover as high as 3,000 feet off the ground, collecting data all day and night.

“I think it’s evidence of a kind of growing police state along the border,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway. “It just seems weird and dystopian to have that kind of surveillance platform right in the middle of the city.”

CBP has refused to say what kind of sensors or other equipment are on the blimp or where those sensors are pointing, instead offering vague references to “border activity.”

Locals are understandably concerned about their privacy now that the agency has launched a panopticon in their backyard. Criminal Legal News has previously reported on the harmful psychological effects of being subject to constant surveillance.

Other residents are skeptical about how much additional benefit the blimp can provide given how heavily monitored the area currently is, with a combination of local, state, and federal law enforcement currently cooperating on border patrol.

Researchers have recently published data showing that such surveillance merely “shift[s] migration routes into much more difficult and remote terrain” and that “the expansion of border surveillance technologies has been accompanied by an increased death rate among migrants crossing the border.”

Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), whose district includes Nogales, has openly said that we “urgently need transparency and oversight with these invasive border surveillance technologies.” 


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