A Democratic congressman made a comparison on Friday between the balloon being flown over the U.S. by the Chinese communist regime, and the move by the Department of Homeland Security to fly blimps over over the Arizona border to monitor smuggling and trafficking along the southern border.
“People are outraged by a Chinese surveillance balloon, but when @DHSgov puts up a surveillance blimp in Arizona border communities without community consultation,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., tweeted, followed by a silenced emoji and a “sssh” emoji.
He later edited the tweet to clarify that people are “rightfully” outraged.
Grijalva’s tweet came as the balloon, which Chinese officials have claimed is a civilian craft that went adrift, remained over the continental U.S. at approximately 60,000 feet.
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The Biden administration has condemned the balloon, canceling a planned trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing and calling it a “clear violation of our sovereignty, as well as international law.”
The Democratic congressman, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, compared the craft to the operation of tethered aerostat blimps operated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Those blimps are used by authorities along the border — including in Texas and Arizona — to counter drug and human trafficking and other forms of smuggling.
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In 2020 the Trump administration issued a $277 million dollar contract to extend the contract with the main company that provides the drones for an additional five years.
The use has continued under the Biden administration, CBP putting a balloon up in Nogales, Arizona last year. A spokesman told local media that the technology has been used along the border since 2013, that the blimp in question has a range of 3,000 feet above ground level and allows Border Patrol to “maintain visual awareness of border activity in the United States for longer periods of time.”
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have been calling on the Biden administration to shoot down the drone as well as to hold hearings on the continued presence of the drone. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Fox News that the Biden administration will brief the “Gang of 8” congressional leaders next week on the situation.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.