Updated Mar 19, 2024 - Technology

Exclusive: DHS could use AI everywhere, Mayorkas says

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks at the Axios What's Next summit.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks at the Axios What's Next summit. Photo: Ronald Flores

There is "not a domain" in the work of the Department of Homeland Security that couldn't be aided by AI, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Axios' Ina Fried at the annual What's Next summit in Washington, D.C.

Why it matters: The agency's work at the border has become central to the 2024 campaign, and AI could bring it more efficiency, but also potentially more controversy.

Context: Mayorkas and his department recently launched a trio of pilot projects applying artificial intelligence to help train immigration officers by simulating interviews with applicants. AI tools are also organizing investigations and helping local communities organize grant applications for hazard mitigation.

What they're saying: "We're using AI at our border, in our not intrusive inspection technology, to detect anomalies in commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, to detect whether an individual is being smuggled, whether precursor chemicals or manufactured fentanyl are being smuggled," Mayorkas said.

  • "There is not a domain of the Department of Homeland Security, and the domain is quite vast and diverse, that we could not use AI, if in fact we learn how to use it responsibly, we understand what the implications are from a civil rights, civil liberties perspective, from a privacy perspective," he continued.

Yes, but: "There are elements of our work that can't be replaced by technology," Mayorkas told the crowd at the What's Next event.

  • He said DHS is on guard for "adversarial" use of AI, including disinformation, data poisoning and the fabrication of false evidence of child exploitation that can send investigators down blind alleys.
Go deeper