Smart phone application helps illegal immigrants navigate safely across border - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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Smart phone application helps illegal immigrants navigate safely across border

SAN DIEGO. Calif. - A San Diego research team is close to releasing a smart phone application to help illegal immigrants navigate safely across the border.

The 'Transborder Immigrant tool' - once downloaded into Motorola phones equipped with GPS - is a humanitarian tool designed to save lives, according to the application's creators at the University of California San Diego.

"It's really just designed for you to turn it on and the compass would show you where the nearest safety site is, be that Border Patrol or highway or water, in case you're in an extreme emergency," said co-creator Micha Cardenas.

Critics, including the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, are outraged and think the application's creators should be arrested.

Story continues below...

Two men scale the border fence from Mexico (File Photo: U.S. Navy)

The technology is nothing new, according to the Border Patrol, whose agents are prepared to counter the application with their own technology, including ground sensors, however the Border Patrol says phones with this new application are a potential threat.

"If they fall into the wrong people's hands, be it terrorists or gang members or people that are here to harm our country, they can also use this technology," said Border Patrol agent Julius Alatorre. "So while the intent may be good, in the wrong hands, it could turn out to be a bad thing."

Cardenas insists the application poses no threat to national security but does call it "electronic civil disobedience" and an art project, even.

"When it tells you where there's water, it also gives you a few lines of poetry to welcome you to the U.S.," Cardenas said.

The researchers hope to finish testing the application in the desert areas along the border and put it to use as soon as possible. Cardenas said the UCSD team is working with immigrants rights advocates and religious groups to distribute the phones in Mexico sometime next year.

So far, they have received at least some of the funding for the $30 phones from the Transborder Humanities Institute at UCSD.

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