Border Leaders on Drone Bandwagon

Border Patrol in a speedboat patrolling the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas
Border Patrol in a speedboat patrolling the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas

A group of elected officials and business leaders from the Texas border today joined Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, in calls for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deploy unmanned aerial surveillance drones to monitor the Texas-Mexico border.

"In a world of evolving threats to our national security, the U.S. cannot rely on outmoded strategies and tactics rooted in the past," said Del Rio Mayor Efrain Valdez, newly elected chairman of the Texas Border Coalition. "It is vital that the Obama administration take immediate action to enhance border security using unmanned aerial drone technology."

Perry called for drones on the border earlier this year during his primary election campaign. Cuellar sent a letter last month to David Aguilar, acting deputy dommissioner of CBP, asking him to deploy a surveillance drone on the Texas-Mexico border.

But U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview this week with The Tribune, that drones have been used for years in training missions and for law enforcement operations on the Texas-Mexico border. "That’s been going on for over 10 years," he said.

The CBP has drones stationed in Arizona, where they have been undergoing tests for use in border patrol missions, Reyes said, and the agency already has plans to deploy the devices in Texas.

"I think they've proven their capabilities and we’ll be able use them … as soon as they become available," said Reyes, a former Border Patrol sector chief.

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