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Border Patrol considered using ‘heat’ sensor to deter migrants crossing from Mexico

Top Customs and Border Protection officials raised the idea of deploying a ‘heat ray’  weapon, which makes victims’ skin feel like it is burning, as a way to deter migrants from unlawfully entering the United States from Mexico ahead of the the 2018 midterm elections.    

Two former officials told the New York Times that the idea was proposed to shocked attendees at a Department of Homeland Security meeting on October 22, 2018 – 15 days before the elections.

The proposal came after Donald Trump had demanded ‘extreme action’ in a prior meeting to control immigration along the 1,954-mile southern border with Mexico.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection proposed using the Active Denial System – a ‘non-lethal’ weapon which uses microwave energy to heat the surface of the skin.

The system was designed by the US military for area denial and crowd control, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, although it is unknown if it was used. 

The officials at the meeting said that Kirstjen Nielsen, who at the time was the Secretary of Homeland Security, opposed ‘heat ray’ and claimed that such idea should not be brought forward in her presence. 


The Active Denial System weapon was first deployed in June 2010 in Afghanistan but was removed a month later. As of 2014, it was only used as a vehicle-mounted weapon. 

The non-lethal weapon fires a high-powered 95 GHz frequency waves, and a two-second burst could heat up the skin to 130 Fahrenheit. 

At the time of its introduction, an Air Force study found that there was ‘an extremely low probability that scars derived from such injury might later become cancerous. 

Proper wound management further decreases this probability, as well as the probability of hypertrophic scarring or keloid formation.’ 

However, an Air Force airman who was exposed to the Active Denial System as part of a test in 2007was hospitalized for two days after suffering second-degree burns in his legs. 

It is unknown if Trump ever broached the subject of deploying the weapon, or if he was informed of the CBP proposal to use it.

But Homeland Security spokesman Alexei Woltornist told The New York Times that the agency ‘never considered’ it. 

In his attempt to crack down illegal immigration, Trump has supported the separation of families who unlawfully entered the United States and even publicly suggested that the military should shoot undocumented immigrants in the legs. He once suggested placing alligators and snakes along the border walls.

The number of apprehensions and inadmissible at the United States border with Mexico has risen during the last four months, according to the latest CBP stats, from 17,086 in April to 40,746 in July.

However, during the Republican Convention on Tuesday, there was scant reference Tuesday to the strict and highly criticized policies and only passing nods to Trump’s signature plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The most prominent mention of immigration came during a taped segment in which Trump oversaw a naturalization ceremony at the White House, jovially congratulating five immigrants as they were sworn in as new American citizens.

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