Warning of serious rights violations at the southern U.S. border that could make way for similar infringements all over the country, more than two dozen civil liberties and immigrant rights advocates on Tuesday urged members of Congress to withhold all additional funding for expanded technological surveillance at the Mexico border.
Fight for the Future and the Electronic Frontier Foundation gathered signatures from groups including the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and RAICES for an open letter to the U.S. House, urging no new funding for the so-called “smart wall” or “technological wall” the Democratic Party has proposed.
“We call on Congress to conduct robust oversight of government surveillance technologies already deployed at the border,” wrote the groups. “While that oversight is ongoing, we should not expand these technologies with new funding.”
Days after the U.S. government reopened late last month following the longest government shutdown in U.S. history over House Democrats’ refusal to give President Donald Trump $5.7 billion for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, the party proposed funding a technological wall as a so-called compromise—provoking outrage from rights groups.
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The funding package would include money for more Border Patrol agents, surveillance drones, and other “new cutting edge technology” at the border. Critics have expressed deep concerns that such advances could include algorithmic risk-assessment, facial recognition, and biometric technology including license plate readers and the collection of DNA.
“Congress should be reviewing and limiting existing border surveillance programs, not providing additional funding for dangerous technologies that infringe on our basic rights.” —Evan Greer, Fight for the FutureIn their letter to House Democrats, the groups shared their concern that the use of such technologies at the border would place “disproportionate burdens on communities of color and could stifle Americans’ willingness to exercise their first amendment rights in public.”
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