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US Grows An Industrial Complex Along The Border

Experts agree that migration rates are falling, but lobbyists and defense companies keep pumping government for increasingly militarized border

by Ted Robbins

The United States' southern border bristles with technology and manpower designed to catch illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. Since 1986, the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on fences, aircraft, detention centers and agents.

A Border Patrol vehicle patrols the fence separating the cities of Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora. The fence has been rebuilt twice. (Ted Robbins/NPR) But even as federal budgets shrink and illegal immigration ebbs, experts say that there's no end in sight for the growth of the border-industrial complex.

A Growing Investment On The Border

Stocked with equipment like Blackhawk helicopters — hundreds of aircraft fly daily missions — much of the southern border has grown into an industrial complex that is fed by the government and supplied by defense contractors and construction companies.

The infrastructure includes a border fence that in some places has been built and rebuilt several times. And up to 25 miles north of the border, towers, sensors and permanent checkpoints spread across the landscape.

The border-control efforts have spread even farther into the country, into cities where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents pursue illegal immigrants and visa violators. Nationally, it extends to roughly 250 immigrant detention centers.

Read (or listen) to the full NPR report on the 'Border Industrial Complex' here.

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