EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The federal government has deployed a new aerostatic balloon to watch the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, Arizona, 24-7.
Installation began late last month one mile north of the border wall. The 72-foot-long (22 meters) balloon is filled with helium and tethered to a 7.5-ton mooring platform. It has day and night-vision cameras for low-altitude surveillance, though the blimp can rise to 3,000 feet above ground, if needed.
“Flying at this altitude allows Border Patrol agents to maintain visual awareness of border activity for longer periods of time,” CBP said in a statement announcing the deployment. The aircraft will be focused on strategic areas near the international boundary, CBP said in response to concerns some Nogales residents about privacy, which were reported by local media.
The federal government has been using aerostatic surveillance balloons at the Southwest border since 2013. Seventeen systems are deployed throughout the border, but this will be the first in eastern Arizona (the Tucson Sector). A second balloon is scheduled for deployment near Sasabe, Arizona, later this year, CBP said.
Tucson Sector agents since October 1 have come across 173,829 unauthorized migrants, sending 138,602 back to Mexico right away under Title 42 authority. The rest have been processed in-country under Title 8.
In eastern Arizona, irregular migration is overwhelmingly Mexican, with 124,287 citizens of that country coming across the border this fiscal year, followed by 31,223 Guatemalans. Six out of seven migrants apprehended there were single adults, CBP stats show.
The sector lies across Sonora, Mexico, a state where U.S. authorities have told Border Report the Sinaloa cartel dominates both drug trafficking and migrant smuggling.