Technology's Role in Securing the Nation's Borders

To limit the entry of illegal immigrants, drugs, and other contraband, the United States Department of Homeland Security employs a variety of electro-optical cameras, lasers, chemical detectors, X-rays, and other sensors.

Fremont, CA: Border security and immigration control in the United States is one of the most contentious – and divisive – political issues today. Yet, rather than politics, one of the most important topics for those tasked with securing borders, combating the influx of illegal drugs and other contraband, and containing a flood of people from all over the world is technology.

Border patrol agents are using a variety of wearable and handheld computers and sensors to help secure the United States' borders.

Laser Technology

One Coast Guard priority is laser technology when it comes to border security. "We're looking at the Coast Guard-Hailing Acoustic Laser-Light Tactical in the field," Macesker says. "CG-HALLTS is mounted on a tripod, but it will be integrated onto the bridge's top on smaller cutters. It includes a long-range acoustic device with very focused acoustic capabilities, allowing you to communicate with someone from afar and issue commands to suspect vessels.

Nonlethal Technology

"We've been looking at less-than-lethal RF technology, which the Department of Defense is investing heavily in; the technology isn't quite ready for the Coast Guard, so we're waiting to see how it develops with the Navy," Macesker says. "We're looking at technology to improve communications and strengthen or improve our ability to intercept non-compliant vessels." Machine learning to make good use of intelligence is one of the future game-changers already taking place in some cases. The challenge, however, is to get things into the hands of field operators as soon as possible."

Biometrics Technologies, which are rapidly advancing, are already finding new applications in border security and immigration control missions. Face recognition software, for example, led to the arrest of two imposters in separate incidents this summer at Washington Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia, alerting federal agents that the two were using false passports to enter the country illegally. The software, which is also being tested at 14 other airports across the country, compares a traveler's photo to a database of passport and visa photos belonging to people flying that day and flags those that do not match.

Small Boat Danger

AMO and the Coast Guard are also researching and implementing new technologies to combat small boat threats. Commercial fishing vessels, recreational boats and yachts, towing vessels, uninspected passenger vessels, and any other small commercial vessel involved in foreign or US voyages are considered small vessels. Border agents in the United States monitor border and maritime areas using sophisticated airborne sensor platforms such as the P-3 Orion aircraft. This plane is based on an old US Navy anti-submarine warfare plane.

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