Free Minds & Free Markets

The Democrats' Alternative to Trump's Wall Isn't Good for Privacy or Property Rights Either

Congressional Democrats want to put more cameras and sensors on private property.

Ron Sachs/SIPA/NewscomRon Sachs/SIPA/NewscomIn response to President Donald Trump's insistence on the need for a border wall to keep the country safe from drug dealers, people smugglers, and illegal immigrants, Congressional Democrats have been bandying about a more moderate-sounding solution: better border security technology.

In her brief televised response to Trump's Tuesday Oval Office address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that "we can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation; we can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border; we can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings."

This theme was picked up by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D–Texas) in an article for CNN titled "The answer to border security is technology, not wall."

"Instead of a wall, we should increase the use of modern technology, including cameras, fixed towers and aerial and underground sensors," writes Cuellar. "We can't double down on a 14th century solution to a 21st century challenge if we want a viable long-term solution."

As one of the first acts of the new Congress, House Democrats—with the aid of five Republicans—passed a funding measure for funding the Department of Homeland Security that precluded wall funding but included $336 million for new border security technology.

Lost in this sales pitch is that many of the same things that make a physical barrier undesirable also apply to new surveillance technology—as we can see from the current efforts to deploy these technologies along the southern border.

The 1952 Immigration and Naturalization Act gives border patrol agents the power to warrantlessly enter any private lands within 25 miles of the border "for the purpose of patrolling the border to prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States." In recent years, the Border Patrol has adopted an insanely broad definition of "patrolling" that includes placing cameras and sensors on private property without the permission of the owner.

Take Roberto Palacios, a rancher and attorney who owns a property near the Texas-Mexico border. He found a surveillance camera installed on a mesquite tree near his house in November 2017. When he removed the camera, both the Border Patrol and the state police demanded it back and threatened to charge Palacios with theft if he refused.

In February 2018, Palacios sued Texas state law enforcement and Customs and Border Protection—which oversees the Border Patrol—for criminal trespass and violating his Fourth Amendment rights.

Also suing the federal government over the placement of sensors and cameras on its land is the North American Butterfly Association, a nonprofit that operates the National Butterfly Center, a wildlife refuge for butterflies along the Texas-Mexico border. Border Patrol refuse to tell the center where the cameras and sensors they've planted are, so staff and visitors are potentially under federal surveillance anywhere they go in the park.

These are hardly the only folks to have surveillance devices placed on their land. In 2012 the State of Texas launched Operation Drawbridge, which has seen it place more than 5,000 cameras along the Mexican border. They feed images to state and federal officials in real time.

Nor are these the only technologies threatening privacy near the border. The use of drones and surveillance blimps has proliferated in the region, while folks passing through legal ports of entry have been subject to everything from facial recognition technology to having their fingerprints run through error-prone terror watchlists.

The "digital border fence" may be less unsightly and less expensive than Trump's wall, but it presents many of the same problems for privacy and property rights. Democrats who call for more of this are showing that they care more about opposing the symbolism of a border wall than actually guarding against its negative effects.

Bonus video: Check out ReasonTV's report on the Butterfly Center's lawsuit:

Photo Credit: Ron Sachs/SIPA/Newscom

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  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    All border security is bad, but don't dismiss us as unserious extremists.

  • Zeb||

    Libertarians are extremists. Some of them serious.

  • Juice||

    There's a famous quote about that from some time ago made my Emmanuel Goldstein. Er, Gold something anyway.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    It's Lews - Emmanuel Lewis.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Al Goldstein?

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    A wall is a waste of money. This plan seems entirely anti-liberty. The feds are going to surveil private property including scanning every single vehicle that crosses the border???

    I knew the Democrats wouldn't let us down. This this was never about principles. It was always about politics.

  • BigT||

    Walls are appropriate in some places. But cameras and towers aren't necessary - we have drones. And the technology is so good you can get swarms of mini drones that behave in a coordinated manner, like a flock of tiny birds. Put cameras in some, and microphones in others, and maybe hot pepper/paint spray in others, and - Bingo ! - no eminent domain needed.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    I'm assuming you don't own border property. How would you like government spy drones flying over your private property? I mean you shouldn't worry if you have nothing to hide... right?

  • BigT||

    I wouldn't like it at all. I don't even like evac helicopters flying overhead. But what can one do? If they fly high enough, you can't even see them. And they could fly on the Mex side of the border.

    Better than a 2,000 mile wall or ground based cameras and sensors. These are coming, whether we like it or not.

  • Agammamon||

    And they could fly on the Mex side of the border.

    Not legally. And not if you don't want Mexican drones flying on the north side.

  • Zeb||

    This really highlights the ridiculousness of the current standoff. Trump and these democrats seem to have more or less the same goals regarding the border, but prefer slightly different approaches.

  • Don't look at me!||

    The most important thing is the the "other side" loses. What is best for the people that employ them is not considered.

  • JesseAz||

    The goal of Democrats is no security. They pretend, but always promise later. See 1986 amnesty.

  • Presskh||

    Totally true. And the Republicans fell for it (or also don't want security either).

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Trump is wise to not believe any democrat bullshit. Their word means nothing. In fact, to preserve the republic, we're getting close to needing to forcibly put an end to their party. As they are now nothing more than a clearinghouse for communist treason.

  • Zeb||

    We have to destroy the republic to save it!

  • GeoffB1972||

    Ah, but there are two important differences:
    1) Border security with people and technology can be made more or less intrusive at will.
    2) A wall is a wall is a wall. It is expensive to enhance, but it's also expensive to tear down.

    Trump wants the wall because it's the only thing he can be sure will still be there after he's gone. Democrats want technology solutions so they can be intrusive as hell where and when they want to be while claiming to be pro-open borders or pro-border security as the political winds shift.

  • Zeb||

    Man, you people are giving Trump way too much credit. You think he gives a fuck about intrusive security?

  • Nardz||

    The guy whose campaign was spied on by the previous administration couldn't possibly care about arbitrary and intrusive security!

    I know groupthink is fun and all, but damn

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Congressional Democrats have been bandying about a more moderate-sounding solution: better border security technology.

    It's nearly the exact same solution, just different technology. They're now just agreeing, except on the details.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Perhaps Democrats could just go back to their old plan from the 90s and issue a national ID card.

  • Zeb||

    I don't trust Trump not to go along with that one.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Well, he used to be a Democrat, so there is that.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Primarily to make nice so he could get his projects through NYC's endless bureaucracy.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The Democrats would rather go back to the 18th and 19th Centuries and just use chains for the slaves.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The Democratic Party- The Party of slavery.

  • BigT||

    Segregation of the gov, imprisoning minorities, Jim Crow, KKK Senators, lynchings, racial preferences (affirmative action), sexism (Title 9), and many other programs that judge/favor/penalize you based not on the content of your character.

  • Bubba Jones||

    We already have that with the new state ids that have to meet federal specs for airport security.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    If this really becomes a widespread stance then this is even more impressively retarded.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...a wildlife refuge for butterflies along the Texas-Mexico border. Border Patrol refuse to tell the center where the cameras and sensors they've planted are, so staff and visitors are potentially under federal surveillance anywhere they go in the park.

    Train the insects to find the Border Patrol equipment and destroy it with the deadly sting of the monarch butterfly!

  • Don't look at me!|| staff and visitors are potentially under federal surveillance anywhere they go in the park.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    They have to float like a butterfly, but sting like a bee.

  • JFree||

    Too late. The number of monarch butterflies has dropped by about 90% over the last few years.

    At least we now know why. They do not like sex tapes being made of them and distributed on So they have gone all Galt's Gulch to stop the moochers.

  • Eman||

    Is that a line from venture brothers?

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Maybe. It is at least a game of cat versus also cat.

  • Agammamon||

    NO! I want you to give up this insane grudge you have on Dr. Venture once and for all.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The electromagnetic pulse from a stratospheric nuclear detonation would do what, exactly, to all the Democrat's Big Brother snitchbots?

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Well, the Democrats don't believe in privacy or property rights, so I don't imagine that will hold them back.

  • Zeb||

    There is one clear solution to all this border stuff. The US just needs to conquer all of the Americas. Then there are no land borders to worry about.

  • JesseAz||

    As the tenth largest energy reserves, we could make Mexico profitable.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's already the 15th biggest economy in the world.

  • Vernon Depner||

    That's not necessary. Just seize a few miles of Mexican land along the border and put our fences and cameras on their side.

  • JFree||

    In theory sure. But Mexican cameras and fences are huge welfare leeches.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Trump should do it. Those,fuckers owe us big anyway.

  • Echospinner||

    Invade Mexico? Not so worried about the Mexican government but if the cartels resist it would not be pretty. You would find border guards with their heads on one side of the wall and bodies on the other.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Seems like a softening of the Democrat cave in on border security.

  • A Lady of Reason||

    A conundrum all around! On one hand we definitely need to stop illegal immigration as best we can, however works the best. On the other hand, the individual rights of Americans also must be respected. Sort of reminds me of the TSA dilemma. Terrorism must be stopped, but also individual freedoms respected and upheld.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    You can't have both. Ever.

    I'd be really interested in which you would rather have, individual freedom or "safety."

  • BigT||

    "You can't have both. Ever."

    You can't have either perfectly, ever. It's always a compromise. There is always some safety and some liberty in any proposed solution.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Now do gun control.

  • BigT||

    Exactly the same. These are always compromises. The boundary between the two extremes moves with the times.

    Abortion? Same.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Leo doesn't know about the 2nd Amendment and how it protects the People's right to keep and bear Arms, thereby making all gun control illegal.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    To be fair, Leo has a tough time with the enumerated powers to regulate migrants, naturalization rules, and provide national security.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    What does that have to do with this topic? Or are you just trolling at this point?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    What does gun control have to do with Trump's wall plans.

    Yeah, you got caught trolling again Leo.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Yeah I can't imagine how a discussion about the balance of liberty and safety has anything to do with gun control.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Leo, they were exo,wining it to you, and you didn't like the answer. So you tried to obfuscate.

    As usual.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Leo, I'll just wait for your sock McGoop95 to show up.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    No I completely agree with that position. I would consider the 4A just as important. I'm struggling to understand how scanning every car that comes into the country as well as having drones on private property jives with 4A.

    The gun control comment was an analogy trying to show the conservatives that personal liberty is important by picking on one of your only principled stands for liberty.

  • BigT||

    "...all gun control illegal."

    Yet we debate the definition of arms. Air Gun? Nuclear weapon? Fully automatic?

    Few things are easily defined as black or white, unless they are arbitrarily assigned (eg citizen) or some measure is applied (one drop of blood, % Indian genes). Our debates are largely around where to draw the lines or what to measure.

  • Mcgoo95||

    "Leo, I'll just wait for your sock McGoop95 to show up."

    Poor troll LC finds it impossible to believe that more than a few people disagree with his statist trolling. Sorry hombre, but I wear no socks.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    LC is more libertarian than you could ever be.

  • Mcgoo95||

    Of course you're gonna say that about your boyfriend.

  • Zeb||

    For fuck's sake, will you people stop pretending that there is anything libertarian about border security.
    It may be necessary to maintain liberty. That's certainly a discussion worth having. But the actual, philosophically libertarian position on immigration is open borders combined with strong property rights and no welfare state. It may not be practically possible at this point, but it's the only position that respects everyone's rights.

  • Nardz||


    "The only libertarian position is no border security."
    JFC, you really typed that.
    Vichy France agrees... to a point.

  • DesigNate||

    And here I was thinking that building a giant fucking wall was retarded and anti-libertarian, and the leading Democrats come up with something I hate even more.

    I wonder how long it will take for Tony and Hihn to show up in support of this.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    In recent years, the Border Patrol has adopted an insanely broad definition of "patrolling" that includes placing cameras and sensors on private property without the permission of the owner.

    Huh. So immigration enforcement DOES lead to downsides to the liberties of citizens. Who knew.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Oh go,Rick yourself you stupid little shit. You have nothing to contribute.

  • Liberty Lover||

    So, giving more power to the surveillance state, and increasing surveillance of legal citizens will stop illegal immigration, illegal drug smuggling and terrorist from entering the country? Sure!

  • Presskh||

    The wall is needed to prevent illegal entry - period. Cameras and drones only identify people who are currently illegally crossing the border. Once on US soil, even illegally, they can then claim they are refugees from political oppression or escaping gang violence, even if they aren't. They will then have a hearing date scheduled but will never show up for it - they just disappear into the populace. Dems want cameras only because they know that once an illegal immigrant is on US soil, the odds are pretty low that they will be deported. And if they have a child while here, the child is automatically a US citizen (thanks to an unintended interpretation of the 14th ammendment), thus becoming the "anchor baby" for the entire family to eventually move here.

  • Echospinner||

    You are going to need cameras, motion detectors, drones, and more border patrol with or without a wall.

    Which option has the least impact on individual and property rights? Which option costs less of our hard earned money?

    The best choice is to reform immigration and legal movement of people, goods, and services. That would drastically reduce the need for all this.

    Freedom is messy and not easy. You can live in a secure police state and we know what that does to liberty.

  • Agammamon||

    Congressional Democrats have been bandying about a more moderate-sounding solution: better border security technology.

    This is hilarious. Basically both sides want to close the border - they're just having dick-measuring contests over the method.

    Of course the Dems want cameras - that's not only lucrative contracts but the opportunity to pander to law enforcement unions by letting the CBP hire another 60,000 people to watch them. Pretty soon the CBP will be larger than the Marine Corps. Hell, they're making the wall look like a serious financially sound choice now.

  • TJJ2000||

    They already tried the "technology" approach. They had to hire more border patrol people to check all the animals, wind blowing trees and spending hours playing hide and go-seek. At some point; they start to realize technology isn't the best/cheapest/longest lasting tool for the job. From what I've read technology will be a pit of re-enacting deficit.

    BUILD THE PHYSICAL WALL! It'll be there for years and years and years. It won't need more people for faulty alarms. It won't deteriorate as fast. It won't have anti-technology technology to fight against. It won't need "upgrading" every other year.

  • Echospinner||

    It won't need anti technology technology.

    Tunnels, saws, and ladders would do.

    Saw a you tube of a guy cutting through a steel I beam with a regular Black grinder.

    So you still need patrols and all that techie stuff.

  • Echospinner||

    Black & Decker grinder

  • enviro414||

    The shutdown can be ended immediately by congress. All that is needed is for congress to submit a funding authorization which includes a one-time item of 0.14% for part of a barrier to help Border Patrol protect America from border jumpers, human trafficking and drug traffic.

    Mexico is paying for the border wall/steel slats/barrier to protect America through USMCA. Congress is obstructing legislation which would get the funding to the builders.

  • Echospinner||

    So then Canada is paying for it as well.

    Wonder it Trudeau knows about that.

  • Liberty Lover||

    Prostitution is illegal in my state.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Gosh Hihn, you must have to be very careful when manning your glory hole in the men's room at the bus station.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Central Texans working gigs near the border are sidetracked on the way back north into Gestapo Gates 50 miles inland and sniffed, scrutinized and confronted with questions like ruanamurcuncidzn? If these Checkpoint Charlies were gotten rid of, that COULD return to the people of These States an area equal to 50 miles times the length of The Merlin Wall. Did either half of the Kleptocracy propose any such elimination of what is effectively a Militarized Zone as a quid pro quo?

  • philoeleutheria||

    "Nor are these the only technologies threatening privacy near the border."

    Nor are these the only technologies threatening privacy.

    The emerging V2X tech is a case-study in how private companies abuse the Legislative functions (Executive, too) of government in search of special-interests......for the sake of "capitalism".

    V2X tech , aka "Vehicle-to-everything", is the push to equip more vehicles with digital technology, also installing more compatible digital communications equipment along public roadways/highways, to enable vast communications between the highway/road system and vehicles.

    There have been extensive, expanding tests and deployment of this tech in places like Colorado and Wyoming.

    It is an interesting case-study because it demonstrates how PRIVATE interests infect public entities/operations for the sake of profit.

    Qualcomm, which is a large manufacturer of V2X chips, is one of the largest proponents of legislation requiring expanding this tech.
    PRIVATE firms like Qualcomm engage in a multi-fronted campaign to further their "capitalist" interests.
    • They sell Bureaucrats (like DOT's) on the tech, in the name of heightened safety.
    • They conduct public marketing campaigns, via shows like the CES, to sell the public on trendy new fads.


  • philoeleutheria||

    ...from previous....

    • They partner with other PRIVATE businesses, like Ford and GM (whom also share many of the same largest shareholders as Qualcomm), to further deploy and simultaneously market the fad.
    • Those Bureaucrats , the public, and other PRIVATE companies then begin lobbying lawmakers to pass legislation requiring this tech.

    This tech will also eventually be used to further erode privacy rights, as the surveillance possibilities are nearly endless.

    voilà, special-interest legislation at the behest of PRIVATE corporations engaging in "capitalism".
    Plus, it further extends the crony-capitalist surveillance state.


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    Further reading: - -

  • philoeleutheria||






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