Things That Matter

The Department of Homeland Security Will Use ‘Robot Dogs’ To Patrol the US-Mexico Border

As migration continues to surge across the world, governments are starting to leverage the power of technology to try and secure their borders — a decision that is not without controversy.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that they are employing the use of Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles (AGSVs) to help them monitor the southern border. These AGSVs are also called “robot dogs” because of their four-legged appearance.

The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) arm of the Customs and Border Protection agency are instrumental in creating the new tech gadget. The S&T partnered with a company called Ghost Robotics to create robot dogs specifically for the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Tuesday, the S&T posted an article to their blog describing the merits of the robot dog.

“The southern border can be an inhospitable place for man and beast, and that is exactly why a machine may excel there,” said S&T program manager, Brenda Long. “This S&T-led initiative focuses on Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles, or what we call ‘AGSVs.’ Essentially, the AGSV program is all about… robot dogs.”

According to Gavin Kenneally, the chief product officer at Ghost Robotics, the robot dog is a “rugged, quadruped robot” that “traverses all types of natural terrain including sand, rocks, and hills, as well as human-built environments, like stairs.”

Many people aren’t happy about the new robot border dogs. Critics see this new technology as a perfect illustration of the over-militarization of the Customs and Border Protection agency.

“I can’t believe our taxes are being used for robot dogs along the border instead of financing visas and severely underfunded immigration courts,” wrote one Twitter user.

Another wrote: “Gives you a glimpse into how humane we are doesn’t it? First drones that kill whole families and now this thing to stop people from coming into the US just so they can live.”

Even New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voiced her disapproval of the robot dogs on Twitter.

“It’s shameful how both parties fight tooth + nail to defend their ability to pump endless public money into militarization,” she wrote, while responding to a tweet about the border-patrol robot dogs. “From tanks in police depts to corrupt military contracts, funding this violence is bipartisan + non-controversial, yet healthcare + housing isn’t. It’s BS.”

And indeed, many people are voicing their reservations about both the needless expense and the violence of these robot dogs. According to The Washington Post, a similar robot dog like this retails for a cool $75,000.

But the DHS insists that these robot dogs are necessary for the safety of their employees.

“Operating out in the desert or mountains, agents and officers have to contend with the rugged terrain, high heat and humidity, and then, of course, they can come across those who wish to do harm,” CBP Agent Brett Becker said in their article. “…When missions take Border Patrol Tactical Operators into towns, cities, or ports, they can encounter hazardous environmental conditions, volatile individuals, or hostile threats. These situations can all be inherently dangerous.”

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