YUMA, Ariz. – In 2005, Yuma Sector Border Patrol led the country in apprehensions, according to border patrol agent Fidel Cabrera. That year, Yuma agents arrested more than 138,000 people, but in 2014, a drastic difference…less than 6,000.
“It’s a combination of everything – the technology, the infrastructure that was built, and of course the personnel,” Cabrera explained.
The budget for U.S. Border Patrol more than doubled in the past decade, and access to technology has since skyrocketed. Border patrol agent Juan Santana used a camera-equipped vehicle, known as a mobile surveillance system, as an example.
Santana said, “We can deploy this unit pretty much anywhere that we like. We have just a regular day camera, and we have an infrared camera that can see heat signatures at night.”
The cameras use radar to detect movement several miles away. Agents can watch from the inside using a computer. Similar cameras are set up permanently throughout the Yuma Sector. Reporter Holly Sweet got to see the high-security room where footage pours in day and night, under several watchful eyes.
Santana says civilian workers watch several monitors 24/7. “When they see movement, the first thing they do is alert the agents who are out here patrolling.”
Barriers are put up to stop illegal vehicles from crossing, while continuing to allow animals to move freely. Something you can’t see – censors, both under and above ground.
The agents couldn’t say much about the hidden devices, but did say this. “They can detect vehicles, people. They’re placed in strategic locations. They’re pretty much just there to alert the agents something is in the area,” Santana said.
Agent Cabrera says all technological advances make their job easier, but he believes the most valuable resource isn’t a device at all. “We have tools to help us. The technology is there, but without the agents arrests can’t be made,” Cabrera said. “The agents – that’s what makes the agency.”