The US Border Patrol has been using a drone program for nearly a decade to help stem illegal immigration across the US border. The program’s efficacy is now under question following an internal report tabled by John Roth, Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security.
The 8 year old program currently employs a fleet of 9 Predator B drones, which were designed to fly over US borders to spot alien immigrants and smugglers. The program was scheduled to receive an additional $443 million to its operating budget this year. The 2014 end of fiscal year audit filed by Roth has advised against this expansion, however.
In his report, Roth found that close to 78 percent of the surveillance efforts of the drone program had to be called off due to maintenance issues, inclement weather or budgetary concerns. Even when the drones were up and running, the contributions were deemed ineffective. For instance, in 2013, 3 drones were deployed along the Tucson region, which eventually led to 2,200 arrests. This equates to only about 2 per cent of the total 120,100 arrests that were made in the area, for the same year.
The overall productivity of the drone program has also raised several concerns. The drones registered 10 per cent fewer flying hours last year, when compared to 2013. Only 1000 pounds of cocaine was seized during surveillance raids in 2014. This was considerably lower than the seizures made in 2013 and 2012, when 2645 and 3900 pounds of cocaine were seized respectively.
The other problem with the drone program, is being attributed to the high operational costs involved. An hour of flying reportedly costs $12,500, which includes salaries, fuel costs, equipment and other overhead charges. In addition to that, each Predator B drone costs $20 million to build.
Inspector General Roth in his statement said, “Notwithstanding the significant investment, we see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border, and there is no reason to invest additional taxpayer funds at this time.” He instead recommends the channeling of funds towards the use of ‘ground surveillance’ and ‘manned aircrafts’, which are known to yield significantly better results.
The internal audit report comes at a time when President Obama’s immigration policy plans to allot work permits to millions of illegal immigrants in the country. Further expansion of the drone program, might prove to be difficult now, since Homeland Security’s budget already faces a contentious battle in Congress.
Do you need advice on immigration law in Texas? If so, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Lyttle Law Firm. We’re based in Austin Texas and well versed in all aspects of immigration. Call us today at 512-215-5225.