Biden Finally Finds a Balloon He Wants To Take Down: Surveillance Blimps at the Southern Border

Immigration crisis expected to worsen as president yanks airships used to monitor 'gotaways'

Border Patrol Aerostat surveillance blimp (Getty Images)
February 9, 2023

After refusing for days last week to shoot down China's spy balloon, the Biden administration finally found airships they are happy to take down: surveillance blimps that monitor the southern border.

The Biden administration is taking the blimps, which allow agents to detect illegal migrant activity over long periods of time, out of commission due to funding cuts, Fox News reported. While there were 12 surveillance balloons in operation last year, only four remain.

Customs and Border Protection agents told Fox that the removal of the blimps, known in the agency as their "Eyes in the Sky," will drastically hinder their ability to track illegal immigrants who evade detention at the border. As of January, there were 1.2 million "gotaways" since Biden took office.

The news of Biden's groundings comes a week after the president waited days to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon traversing the continental United States. The aircraft was first reported on Jan. 31, floating over military and nuclear bases in Montana. The military finally shot down the vessel over the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 4.

Biden didn't show the same indecision with the balloons guarding the border: The security devices were taken down across the border on Jan. 1 after funding dried up.

"Although the Border Patrol’s number of aerostats will be reduced, the Border Patrol will continue to use aerostats throughout FY 2023," a Border Patrol official told Fox.

The decision to ground the surveillance balloons comes amid a worsening migrant crisis on both borders. More migrants were processed in December than ever before—251,487 in total.

Border agents in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont reported a 743 percent increase in migrant encounters between October and December compared with the same months in 2021.

Customs and Border Protection, meanwhile, this month distributed a poster to its officers celebrating "black resistance," featuring anti-police advocates like Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter.