For those who live in the small border town of SierraVista between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, the white blimp never gives them respite from the sun. It reminds you that you are being watched.
The crew of people on land usually control the landing of the blimp after it rises into the sky. It floats about 25,000 feet in the air and is used to detect low- altitude aircraft. When it's too windy for the tether to hold the blimp, it's not in the air. When I asked my brother what it looked like, he said it was a white cross between a dart and a Vienna Sausage.
The Fort Huachuca military base is known for its military intelligence and cyber security. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the U.S.-Mexico border is provided by the TARS. There are other military bases near the border that don't have a TARS. The United States Department of Defense is responsible for the lil sky chode. Half of all suspect targets are accounted for by the eight TARS sites, which make up less than 2% of the total integrated radars. The goal of keeping watch over the border isn't hidden from the residents of Sierra Vista, but is covered with a thin veil of American propaganda.
Here the TARS sits, ready to rest for the night Credit: Getty images
Kindergarteners were told that the blimp kept them safe. I was on that tour in 2001 and was curious about the white goldfish. It was called the "spy balloon" or "anti-drug balloon" by some older kids. If you were hiding, you would have to hide from the blimp because it could see you. If it was in the sky at night, you could detect it by the three red blinking lights, but instead of thinking those lights indicated the blimp itself, we would debate what type of alien it was.
A staple of life in a border town is the border patrol's constant presence. The majority of the people in my hometown are white and Hispanic, while Asian and Black people make up less than 2%. Depending on your immigration status, you know you're being watched or kept safe.
The goldfish was built in 1986 It feels like it was from the 60's. You can see it above your head almost every day of the year. Even as they use our data and likeness, hidden underground sensors, and facial recognition technology blend into the surroundings and don't appear threatening. We would have to drive through the border patrol checkpoint to get to Tucson. Maybe that was planned. The government may be watching us.
I don't remember a lot of what they said on the field trip to the blimp, which was brought down to the ground so kindergarteners could see it. I remember my mom giving me and my best friend bubble gum on the bus even though our teacher told us we couldn't have it on the bus. It was very exciting to see that. The blimp was dark inside and no one was on board when it was in the sky. The control room of a spaceship would have wires and buttons throughout. The man we were shown around was tall and skinny and wore a shirt. He was white and looked more like a flight attendant than an immigration officer, which made sense to me because he looked like a plane to a kid. It was bright when we left the blimp. The light hurt my eyes and made me walk out of a movie theater.
My class wasn't the first group of 5-year-olds to walk through the balloon. When I spoke to a representative from my school district, she said she didn't know how many classes went on the trip, but she knew it was more than just my own. There hadn't been a visit to the blimp since at least before 2020. No one keeps track of who goes to the blimp. An image deliberately intertwined with the fabric of border-town life can be seen in a blimp in SierraVista.
I asked U.S. Customs and Border Protection why they would take kids who lived in a border town, many of whom were brown, some of whom were undocumented, and nearly all of whom knew someone who was. He added that it was a blimp. That's fascinating. Kids would like to know about it.
I need to give it to him. I wanted to know what it was for, but I don't remember if the officers told us they were catching bad guys or not. It feels good to kids until they realize that the "bad guys" they are supposed to protect are often their family members or even themselves.
A photo of the blimp on June 30, 2020 that my mom sent me and I very carefully edited (blimp is inside the big red circle) Credit: Tori Silva
As they grow older and learn the details of how the TARS works, they are reminded that they are being watched because the government doesn't trust people who look like them.
She said that regardless of whether the kids and their families are documented or not, they will be under suspicion because of how they look. Negative mental health impacts can be caused byminatory environments.
According to a 2008 study from the National Library of Medicine, perceived discrimination has been linked to a number of diseases. When people are chronically treated differently, unfairly, or poorly, it can have effects ranging from low self-esteem to a higher risk for developing stress- related disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Arizona has a law that invites racial profiling by requiring police officers to demand proof of citizenship or immigration status from people they stop, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The West is dominated by racism. It has shaped Arizona into the place it is, one that gained statehood by colonizing Mexico and led to the rise of the " matriarch of xenophobes" like Joe Arpaio. A reminder of the consequences of your skin color in a border town can be found in the overhead blimp.
The consequence of this is to make people believe that they don't belong. It could mean trying to prove belonging, which could lead to separation from their communities.
It can make young kids afraid of being deported. According to a 2020 study, the psychological distress of children of immigrants is almost double that of their first generation parents. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, immigrant families experience frightening levels of fear and uncertainty. Their family members are not safe and that's why the blimp is there. Depression and anxiety are caused by fear of forced separation.
It seems we are making more moves to abandon the facade of stealth because of the recent events. The sneakier tools tend to be used on communities that aren't already disadvantaged by their race, ethnicity, and immigration status According to the Georgetown Law School Center on Privacy and Technology, stop-and-frisk, suspicionless search, immigration checkpoint miles inland from the border are frequently forced into the lives of people who are not likely to object.
I remember when I was on that field trip that bubble gum was allowed on the bus. I really liked having a day off. The Arizona heat is a common fact of desert life. The monsoons that filled Southern Arizona skies with thick, dark clouds and poured down water onto our dry terrain were as inescapable as being watched by the blimp. The rains brought with them the smell of creosote, a bush that fills the air with a scent from its leaves. The blimp only brought with it the knowledge that we were not safe.