As border security and enforcement have become established within political circles as necessary precursors to enacting paths to citizenship for incoming migrants, the border tech realm has expanded dramatically. This buildup has created a “low-intensity war zone” border where surveillance, policing, military tactics are employed. Within this structure, defense contractors, construction companies and technology giants vie for political actions (in particular, enhanced resources in the federal budget) that lead to lucrative contracts. The articles and reports below detail the federal government’s outsourcing of border securitization to private companies and the subsequent development of strategic corporate lobbying for border militarization.
Factsheet on Tech Wall and CBP Appropriations (2021) Joint factsheet produced Mijente and Just Futures Law. An excerpt from their piece:
Border surveillance is a for-profit industry. It is being pushed by companies with financial ties to both the Biden and former Trump administrations and clock thousands of lobby visits to Congress each year. From FY 2017-20, CBP alone received around $743 million from Congress for tech and surveillance. In FY 2021, DHS received more than $780 million from Congress for the same.
Wall Street’s Border Wall: How Five Firms Stand to Benefit Financially from Anti-Immigrant Policy. (November 2017) Read this new report from a coalition of organizations, including the Partnership for Working Families.
Todd Miller’s piece “Creating a Military-Industrial-Immigration Complex: How to Turn the U.S.-Mexico Border into a War Zone” discusses border as a “low-intensisty war zone” that has become part of the global market of border zones. The article was written in 2013, when Congress was considering a “border surge” similar to that proposed by the Trump administration. In “the most intense concentration of the surveillance state in a single location ever witnessed,” defense and security technology companies vie for lucrative government contracts in the every growing military-industrial-immigration complex.
Within this complex, activists and scholars have identified strong relationships between enforcement strategies and corporate interests at the U.S.-Mexico and the Palestine-Israel Border. This Electronic Intifada article on corporate benefactors of border militarization focuses on “border security on steroids” legislation and how foreign contractors such as the Israeli Elbit Systems are reaping profits from border militarization. The author outlines the connections between particular policies and corporate interests and explains the human rights consequences of these public-private ties. In another article, Gaza is laboratory for US-Mexico border tunnel warfare, the author describes U.S. investment in Israel’s tunnel warfare system.
The New York Times article “As Wars End, a Rush to Grab Dollars Spent on the Border” describes the complex relationships between military contractors such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, and political leaders in Washington. These relationships have become increasingly important as federal funding for border security has increased. Following President Trump’s Executive Order on January 25, 2017, construction companies submitted proposals in the hopes of securing the multi-billion dollar project.
Open Secrets’ Influence & Lobbying: Defense evaluates the political involvement of the defense industry, highlighting its stealth lobbying strategies that have considerable influence. This resource provides critical statistics regarding lobbying and the political recipients of defense industry money. Recipients include ranking members within House and Senate committees on Homeland Security and Defense, Armed Services, Immigration, Refugee and Border Security, and Terrorism and Technology. In short, politicians who hold considerable power over the formulation and enactment of militarization legislation benefit from defense corporations’ contributions.
The following excerpts serve as examples of how government actors and privately contracted corporations become interconnected. By privatizing national security, a cyclical dependency is formed through the profit and power that corporations gain which they in turn employ to influence politics through their lobbying efforts. Elbit and ManTech demonstrate this cyclical behavior: they depend on federal contracts for profit, and then, politically invest in candidates, parties, PACs and bills that will ensure continuous contracts and therefore, revenue.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection has hired Elbit multiple times for drones and other surveillance technology since 2006. In 2014, it was announced that Elbit would receive a $145 million contract to construct an Integrated Fixed Tower project along the Arizona-Mexico border, to include towers, cameras, radars, motion sensors and control rooms. This article in Mother Jones provides greater detail about the project.
Despite being an Israeli-based company, Elbit has contributed money to various American political campaigns. Elbit’s largest candidate contribution to date was a total of $20,000 for the election of Kay Granger (R-TX) to the House of Representatives in both 2012 and 2014. Granger is currently the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations and sits on the Subcommittee on Defense. Both subcommittees are highly pertinent to ensuring Elbit’s continued service along the U.S.-Mexico border. Other recent candidates that Elbit has supported include: Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ed Royce (R-CA) and Roger Williams (R-TX). All of these candidates serve on strategically important House Subcommittees and the majority of Elbit’s contributions serve right-wing candidates.
ManTech International Corporation
In 2013, ManTech International Corporation signed a 5-year agreement with the DHS guaranteeing a $6 billion ceiling to provide “cyber security services and integration for continuous diagnostics and mitigation across a wide range of ‘.gov’ networks” (ManTech Website). This information sharing system seeks to provide public sector agencies with private partnerships. While this system increases the speed of sharing threat information, it also gives private sector partners access to classified and secret information. There has been criticism of the increased integration of private companies within state affairs that this has brought about and concern regarding ManTech’s legitimacy and government connections. For example, House Representative Richard Renzi (R-AR), a vocal advocate for increasing the Department of Homeland Security’s funding, is also the son of ManTech Ex-Executive Vice-President Eugene Renzi (Koulish 162). Besides this connection, various ManTech leaders and employees have previously worked within the U.S. government. While the company doesn’t demonstrate very defined candidate lobbying strategies, a large portion of their contributions have been towards issues of federal defense funding and localized border issues.