A surveillance blimp is watching the US-Mexico border. Critics call it an invasion of privacy

The 22-meter persistent ground surveillance system aerostat was deployed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on June 30, 2022, in Nogales, Arizona./Border Protection photo

By José Ignacio Castañeda Perez |Arizona Republic

The recent deployment of a surveillance aerostat blimp in Nogales has been met with mixed reactions from residents, local officials and a member of Congress who cite an invasion of privacy and insufficient notification. 

While residents and officials were supportive of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection blimp in its efforts to further secure the border, they raised privacy concerns for people living along the international boundary. Additionally, city officials and residents were not aware of the blimp until after it had been installed.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino was only notified of the 22-meter ground surveillance blimp after he noticed it perched atop one of the city’s high points and reached out to Border Patrol, he said. 

“It appeared before we got any notification from Border Patrol,” Garino said. 

The blimp was deployed June 30 about one mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to CBP. The installation of the helium-filled blimp began June 20 and will be operated by Border Patrol agents 24/7 to provide around-the-clock, low-altitude aerial surveillance of the border.

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