Didier Danet – 120,000 dollars per Wet Back”: what economic rationale for the smart border in the US

Didier Danet, director of “Pôle Action globale et forces terrestres” – Centre de recherche des écoles de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan, France

In raw numerical terms the erection of a “smart border” between the United States and Mexico cost $ 18 billion in 2012 and resulted in the arrest of 357,000 people trying to cross illegally, which means that the cost of intercepting one clandestine amounts to more than 50 thousand dollars. This extremely high cost raises questions about the efficiency of policy implementation and the type of solution it favors, in which the bulk of the effort is focused on the deployment of sophisticated technological devices reinforced by substantial human resources.

The success of the solution adopted is even more important to evaluate since it exerts a powerful attraction on many policy makers, even though the resources that they could mobilize for this purpose are incommensurate with the budgets and time allocated by the U.S. administration in this program. As these dynamics are presented as matters of security and defense, two of the fundamental characteristics of the U.S. program need attention. The first relates to the conditions of implementation of a solution in which technology is presented as the central axis of a policy addressing a global issue with political, economic, and social dimensions. But this is a recurrent theme in the contemporary analysis of safety and defense issues. Secondly, the policy of “smart borders” is integral part of the increasing power of private actors in the implementation or design of sovereign mandates. Without a priori condemning the participation of certain types of private actors in the conduct of a state policy, it is however possible to question the relevance of the solution being implemented.

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