Border to Border: A Tale of Two Crossings Part 2

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Tonight is the second part of Your News Leader's Border to Border series. We continue our look at the northern border and technology used by border agents, Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officers and Air and Marine Operations as they crack down on illegal immigration, keep illicit items out and help facilitate legal trade.

Whether it's in the skies, at ports of entries or the miles between them, technology plays a substantial role in how the border is protected.

"We have all kinds of stuff from agent portable equipment, to night vision goggles like you've seen in the movies," said U.S. Border Patrol Agent In Charge Eric Kuhn.

Goggles are just one tool Border Patrol agents use. They also have access to trail cameras that are placed strategically along the border. Those camera's are partnered with Infrared trucks to allow agents to survey an area.

Border Patrol Agent Clinton Russell said, "A lot of the illegal crossings, border traffic is going to happen at night and this enables us to detect that traffic."

The border is also watched from the air by Air and Marine Operations with helicopters and drones for different missions.

"Allows us to stay further away from anything we're interested in looking at, anything we're trying to do surveillance on, which also makes it very difficult to do determine if somebody is watching you. So our counter detection rate is significantly better with an unmanned aircraft," said Air and Marine Operations Deputy Director Dave Fulcher.

A drone cockpit is similar to a airplane cockpit, Fulcher says this makes it easier to train in new UAV pilots.

Fulcher said: "It's similar to a flight station, in the sense that it does shave flight controls, it does have power levers and rudder pedals and things you would find in a normal cockpit."

When drones are in the air they constantly take pictures that're analyzed by computers.

"They use a change detection photography and so up here when we have such huge distances of the border the aircraft can fly over that area, take pictures of it, fly back over it again and whether it be a day later. The computer will pick up and changes along that area," said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Technology is heavily used at the legal ports of entry, too, as CBP officers try to keep narcotics, counterfeit items and illegal immigrants out of the US.

"We have radiation portal monitors that detect for radioactive materials that might be brought into the US, We have gamma imaging systems to help scan commercial trucks," said Assistant Area Port Director Chris Misson, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Even with all the technologyy, man power is still the biggest asset to the agency.

Kuhn said: "The most important tool to secure the border is always going to be the agent. Technology is nice, cameras are nice, helicopters are nice, UAV's are nice. At the end of the day, an agent has to go out there and identify what that person is or what that thing is and decide if it has broken the law, if it's a threat to the United States."

Whether it's humans or electronic surveillance, even though it appears the northern border isn't extensively staffed someone or something is always keeping an eye on America's homeland security.

Similar to the North, southern border agents are keeping busy. Tomorrow Daniela Hurtado shows you how southern border issues have an affect on North Dakotans.