Help Fight Illegal Immigration … From Your Living Room

Border security is a huge issue…duh.  Come on, recent news coverage and debate about border security and immigration has sparked multinational discussion, legislative action, and establishment of various new initiatives to help fight—or just deal with—an issue that has long-ranging effects for all involved parties.

This issue takes lots of man power, lots of time, lots of money, everyone can agree.

I was born and raised in South Texas, just a several hours away from the border.  A quick drive down Highway 77 towards Mexico and you will not only see dozens of Border Patrol vehicles, you will also see them in helicopters, on four-wheelers driving the fence lines, and you will also pass through several security checkpoints.  Most recently, to help combat efforts, they have even placed a series of face recognition cameras up-and-down the highway to help identify suspects.  

There is only so much the government can do.  And from a citizen’s standpoint, aside from alerting officials (via 911), there has never been a proactive, widely-recognized, widely-accessible means of citizen enforcement….until now, well kind of.

BlueServo, a Texas-based firm, has joined forces with the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition to form a public-private partnership to create a “real-time surveillance program designed to empower the public to proactively participate in fighting border crime.”

Yes, they are using a combination of federally-funded grand money and social media to fight illegal immigration and promote border security.  Really, seriously?

Sounds like a great idea… expand man power with fairly cheap resources and help combat crime.  However, the concept they have developed, in my mind, isn’t very feasible and isn’t worth the 2+ million investment, for the following reasons.

  1. Engagement: Who wants to stare at a screen for hours waiting for some action?
  2. Accessibility: Only people with internet (not mobile friendly) access can access the website, and it also requires registration and disclosure of personal information.
  3. Reality: Once illegal immigrants know where the cameras are placed, they will avoid or destroy them…. duh.

Although I think it’s a fail, many of BlueServo’s Facebook page think it’s the most awesome invention ever.  And according to Compete.com, they have about 15,000 unique viewers a month – thought not nearly as high as they should be.

This campaign is lacking in many areas, however I feel that a well designed and well executed, social and new media initiative could work wonders and prove valuable for Mexico, US, and the government and law officials of both countries, for the following reasons:

  1. Empower citizens: People want contribute the overall effort.  An easy to use, effective, cross-cultural means of social and new media could be the tool citizens utilize to help make a difference.  If they know their voice (anonymous) is heard, they will reach out and help.
  2. Deter crime: With more eyes open, there are more resources and more players are in the game.
  3. Educate citizens: Communicate to people risks of illegal immigration and the associated crime. Use local resources (schools and community centers) to spread the initiative and increase its scope and reach.

This idea isn’t too far-fetched.  Law enforcement officials on the US-Canada border have implemented a text message-based “tip” system for citizens to report suspicious activity.  And according to another article, “Agents already make nearly 90 percent of their contacts based on tips from the public and other law enforcement agencies.”

People will communicate if you give them a means (a practical means) to do so.  Utilizing a mobile-based system would allow people to make tips from anywhere, and will furthermore give people a sense of mind and comfort knowing they have alerted an official who will address the issue.

Question is: in the world of internet-based communications and social media, what system or application would be best for combating this issue?  I think location-based technology is where it’s at.  Users will not only be notifying officials, they will also be giving them their exact location.  It’s easy and it’s streamlined.

Or maybe that isn’t the answer.  What do you think?  Does BlueServo work?  Would you watch a live feed of the Mexico-Texas border from your living room? Or is that just a bunch of garbage?

[This blog was originally drafted as a class assignment for a graduate-level course in global communications and social media at Georgetown University.  To read the class blog, click here.]

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