by Cole Lauterbach
The U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is looking into the viability of autonomous robots resembling man’s best friend to traverse the Mexican border.
The department is working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate to expose the Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles (AGSVs) to climate and terrain consistent with the southern border. In its Feb. 1 blog post, the department said initial testing in Lorton, Virginia, moved to El Paso, Texas, to give the machines a better taste of its potential work environment.
“The territory is vast and monitoring it is critical to our nation’s security,” CBP said in an article. “That’s why the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is offering U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) a helping hand (or ‘paw’) with new technology that can assist with enhancing the capabilities of CBP personnel, while simultaneously increasing their safety downrange.”
CBP said one advantage to the robots patrolling the southern border was mitigating the need to put agents in potentially hazardous situations, be it from the harsh environment or hostile encounters.
The department contracted with Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics, which manufactured the machines. The company has other models that have guns mounted on them. None of the pictures released by CBP show any weaponry on the AGSVs it tested on the border.
The news brought references to dystopian novels and general skepticism, including from Pima County Recorder Gabriella Càzares-Kelly, who briefly taught school children on the Tohono O’odham Nation along the southern border.
“We read Fahrenheit 451 and had extensive [conversations] about the mechanical hounds, which were terrifying, even to the tough kids,” she tweeted.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, called the testing “shameful” and accused Democrats and Republicans of defending spending public money on “militarization.”
The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the plan, calling it a “disaster in the making.”
“The government must retract this dangerous proposal, and the Biden administration must put the brakes on our country’s slide into an anti-immigrant dystopia,” the nonprofit said in a Feb. 3 statement.
CBP reported last week it had made nearly 1.9 million arrests at the country’s southern border in 2021, a record for a 12-month period.
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Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, and Nevada. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.
Photo “Robot Dog” by Ghost Robotics.