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In West Texas, Border Surveillance is a Way of Life

Michel Marizco/Fronteras Desk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
CBP communications staff member maneuvers a Border Patrol surveillance camera mounted along the U.S.-Mexico border. The cameras can see directly down into Mexico.

When Sasha Von Oldershausen moved from New York City to Presidio, Texas, a few years back, her friends told her to get a gun and lock the doors. They imagined her moving to the stereotypical lawless Southwest.

But Von Oldershausen knew better – in the vast majority of the tiny Texas towns that dot the borderlands, crime rates are low, the landscape is indescribably beautiful and the sense of solitude is profound. Then ,she discovered she wasn't nearly as alone as she thought. Texas Monthly writer Sasha Von Oldershausenrecounts her experience in her article "Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself."

Von Oldershausen says she experienced firsthand the capabilities of Border Patrol's surveillance methods while walking on a trail near the Rio Grande one day.


"I turned back, went up the trail and what I found at the trailhead was a border patrol agent waiting for me," she says. "He informed me that I had somehow triggered sensors that were presumably at the river's edge, and I was completely shocked. I hadn't seen any sensors there."

Later, the same agent appeared at her house one night.

"He informed me that some people they were after had gotten away, and he told me that I should lock my doors just to be safe," Von Oldershausen says.

But one comment caught her off guard, and got her thinking about the level of surveillance in the borderlands.

"He also as an afterthought said, 'I came out here because I know you live alone,'" Von Oldershausen says. "It was that statement that really threw me off."

Listen to her story about border surveillance in the audio player above.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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