In West Texas, Border Surveillance is a Way of Life

A Texas transplant reflects on the state of surveillance in the borderlands.

By Rhonda FanningAugust 22, 2016 11:53 am

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 Oldershausen recounts 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.”