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Critics Say Robot Dogs On Southwest Border Won't Work

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is experimenting with technology of releasing a new creature into the Arizona desert: robotic dogs. Headless, four-legged and made of metal, 100-pound “ground drones” would be tasked with looking for migrants within the 41,500 square miles that compose the U.S. Border Patrol’s area of operations within Arizona. They would augment a 30-year investment the Department of Homeland Security and its predecessors have made in high-tech surveillance tools meant to catch migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and discourage others from trying. Robotic dogs are the last thing we need to address the urgent needs of migrants, asylum seekers and residents of local communities, write Geoffrey Boyce of the Earlham College Border Studies Program in Tucson and public health researcher Sam Chambers of the University of Arizona in the Washington Post. The Border Patrol’s use of high-tech surveillance systems in the desert has already contributed to an alarming spike in migrants’ deaths — the result of a border-control plan that has failed to curb or deter migration meaningfully but has actively funneled migrants toward punishingly inhospitable terrain, they say. Boyce and Chambers have examined the relationship between the first generation of surveillance towers, which CBP began deploying in 2006, and the location and rate of mortality in Arizona’s desert borderlands. Since 2007, there has been a statistically meaningful shift in the location of human remains toward areas outside the visual reach of the towers. This shift corresponded to a roughly 643 percent increase in the rate of mortality between 2006 and 2020.

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