Friday, May 24, 2019

The Border Patrol--A Snap Shot

Ah, the old checkpoint.
“Are you a US citizen?”
“Have a good day!”
While not usually more than a minute or two delay in your journey home from either El Paso or Las Cruces, it is an annoyance at best and an inconvenience at worst. But, what’s the point and why are they there? And what exactly does the Border Patrol do anyway? Who are these men and women who make up one of the largest police forces in the world?

I’ll get the boring part of this journey over with quickly. The checkpoints exist due to a congressional mandate found in the Immigration and Naturalization Act Section 287 and 8 USC 1357. The authority of the checkpoint operations have also been reinforced by the Supreme Court in the Martinez-Fuerte case. But few people are worried about those kinds of details—which are too tedious to discuss here. 

But, there’s so much more to the Patrol beyond a checkpoint in the middle of the desert. The history of the Border Patrol is long and rich, and some of the stories I’ll share will surprise you beyond measure! 

The Border Patrol began its illustrious journey back in 1924 when the Labor Appropriation Act birthed the organization that would eventually become the US Border Patrol, which is responsible for patrolling the 6,000 miles of Mexican and Canadian international borders and 2,000 miles of coastal waters surrounding the Florida Peninsula and the island of Puerto Rico.

In the early 1900’s, the US government supported the Mexican government headed by President Carranza, a political rival of Pancho Villa. Angered by American support, Villa and his army of 400, rode into Columbus, New Mexico and attacked the garrison, killing 17 Americans. President Wilson then sent General Pershing with 5,000 soldiers to the border to protect the nation. Within a year, the military presence grew to several hundred thousand.

In 1916, the Mounted Guard was formed in response to increased alien smuggling and bootlegging on the Southern border. Originally a force of about 50 men, they found themselves overwhelmed with the work and begged congress for more help. Congress responded by changing their names to Border Patrol Inspectors and granted them more authority to board and search, arrest, interrogate suspects, administer oaths, and execute warrants. 
As smuggling grew, so did the crime associated with this action.  Smugglers protected their cargo at the tremendous cost in the lives of law enforcement officers.

Let’s skip through some of the tedious history and focus on a few amazing highlights. When WWII began, the Border Patrol was assigned security duty at internment camps during the early part of the war. 

Fast forward to 1961 and the racial disturbances in the South. Patrol Inspectors were used to prevent violence and ensure the demonstrations remained peaceful, and help with riot control. In 1962, a Border Patrol plane transported James Meredith to the University of Mississippi for the purpose of enrolling in that institution. 

Despite a crowd of more than 10,000 protestors, and the violence that ensued, the Border Patrol protected Meredith and secured the Registration Building so he could become the first African-American enrolled at Ole Miss.

 The Border Patrol was also instrumental in preventing the first domestic hijacking in El Paso, Texas, on August 3, 1961. Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Leonard Gilman was a passenger on the plane and subdued the hijackers, securing the aircraft.

The Patrol of today leaped forward and became a high tech organization following the events of 9/11 and the terrorist wars that followed.

And that brings us to today. We are all keenly aware of the border and the border issues simply by watching the evening news. While trying to catch nothing more than the weather, you’ll see images of Border Patrol agents working on the international boundary. And depending on the news source, the stories will be either positive or negative. And, as life is neither good nor bad, there will be truth to what you are watching. The political powers in Washington seem not to care about the people who are the agents of the Patrol.  It seems the buzzword, CARAVAN is a favorite word on the news. What’s up with that? The answer might surprise you…

Remember when the Border Patrol was under fire for separating parents from their children, and sending the parents to jail to await their immigration hearing while the kids are kept in a separate facility until being reunited with their parents and sent home? Well, that was a huge deal, and a very effective enforcement strategy. Attempted illegal entries nose-dived while this practice was in place. And try to bear in mind that anytime an adult who has children is arrested for a crime, they are separated from their families and sent to jail to await their day in court. This has been the practice for centuries. But, the 9thCircuit Court of Appeals ruled that practice unconstitutional and effectively removed the Border Patrol’s ability to enforce immigration law on the border. 

And it was a game changer! What resulted was something commonly referred to as “catch and release.” Catch and release is when an illegal alien crosses the border with a child in tow, and as long as they are a “family unit” the agents arrest them, issue them court documents for a future court date, and release them to further their entry into the United States. As remarkable as this practice is, the reality of it is quite startling. This began the surge of caravans to make the journey from third world nations to the utopia of the United States—and they are coming by the thousands. Clever smugglers figured out they could assign a child to an adult, and as long as they claimed to be father and child, or mother and child, the agents were forced to issue them court documents and release them into the United States. While this is certainly child trafficking, and highly illegal, it is almost impossible for the agents to combat. When thousands of illegal aliens make entry every day, each carrying a child, the agents don’t have enough resources to properly investigate to whom the child actually belongs. Reports are now emerging that the same children are being “recycled” by smugglers who use them over and again—for a fee—to the illegals who are willing to use the child to make an entry. 

As horrifying as this is to think about, the agents are dealing with this daily, and they are suffering the effects of this new reality. To date, four Guatemalan children have died as a result of this practice, and they were deaths that will long haunt the agents who are giving everything they had to properly care for the aliens. And when they come by the thousands, the task is insurmountable.  

To be fair, not all aliens buy or borrow a child. Many of them are actually related to the child in their care. 

And this topic is rapidly becoming unpleasant. So, let’s talk a little about the agents and try to figure out who they are—beyond the person leaning into your window and asking you personal questions. Yes, they seem robotic and indifferent when you see them at the checkpoint. You’re in a hurry and simply want to get back on the road, and you won’t want to roll down your window to answer a silly question. I get it! I hate the annoyance of it as well. 

And I can only imagine what it must be like to stand there in the summer’s blistering heat or winter’s biting edge to carry out a congressional mandate. Yet, most of the agents are polite and courteous, despite the robotic repetition of the job. And a question comes to mind. Are they making a difference?

According to statistics released by Customs and Border Protection, the US Border Patrol has apprehended the following:
·     2016—415,816
·     2017—310,531
·     2018—566,281
·     Total:  1,292,628 aliens caught in three years.
What about narcotic arrests? (Only using 2018 statistics to save space)
·     Cocaine—6423
·     Heroin—532
·     Marijuana—439,531
·     Methamphetamine—10,382
·     Fentanyl—332 
What about gang members? (A three year total)
·     1,966 arrested gang members who are illegal aliens
·     Of those arrested, 858 were members of the dreaded MS-13
What about criminal aliens arrested? (A three year total)
·     27,632 criminal aliens encountered
·     7,919 criminal aliens with outstanding warrants of arrest 

Their job is dangerous. Most agents don’t work at a checkpoint. There are roughly 20,000 agents across the northern and southern borders, and the largest bulk of them actually work on the international boundary. The agents from Alamogordo are too far from the Rio Grande to work the river, so they are permanently assigned to the check points. The agents on the River and the Line are subject to gunfire from Mexico, rocks thrown (and if you snicker at that, remember how David killed Goliath. Rocks kill, especially when they are the size of softballs), physical attacks from aliens who don’t want to be apprehended, and disease exposure.

To date, the Border Patrol has experienced 128 line of duty deaths, four of whom were women.

I’ve given you an overview, a snap-shot, if you will, of an organization that is too complicated to be properly covered with one article. And I thought I’d share some information with you that you probably didn’t know, or even stop to consider:

·     Agents work a minimum of 50 hours a week, and regularly work an additional 2-3 hours each week trying to keep up with the volume of alien traffic.

·     400 rescued aliens have been saved in the last few months. 46 saved from being locked and transported in tractor-trailers. 

·     In certain locations, one or two agents apprehend as many as 50-250 aliens by themselves until transportation arrives to take the aliens to a processing station. It’s more and more common for the agents to apprehend as many as 300 at one time. 

·     On average, it takes about 1 hour to process the court documents and issue the paperwork for an alien’s case for removal, or to send the alien to immigration court. Many areas catch as many as 1200 aliens a day. El Paso Sector generally apprehends between 800-1,200 aliens daily. These are “family units” of one parent and one child.  ·     Almost always, line agents work by themselves, and their backup is multiple miles away from them. 

·     Agents regularly conduct K9 demonstrations, citizens academies, stakeholder meetings, and other community events designed to help educate their communities about their operations, and give the citizens an opportunity to them feedback on the job they’re doing. 

·     Although agents have to work most weekends and holidays, a majority of them are men and women of faith, and sincerely observe their faith as a daily practice. 

·     Most agents sympathize with the aliens they detain, and are compassionate for their circumstances, but are duty bound to honor the law as it’s written.

·     Many times, agents give their lunch away to hungry aliens they apprehend. Some even keep extra food in their vehicles to help sustain those who are starving. 

·     Most agents keep up to five gallons of water in their vehicles to give to aliens when they catch them. 
 Sometimes, agents carry the weaker aliens on their backs until a vehicle can get to them. 

·     Most agents have children of their own, and are careful to treat alien children with the same respect as they treat their own. They often give them toys and coloring books, which they donate from their own homes.

 ·     Agents have apprehended more than 700 gang members in 2018, about half of them were MS-13.

·     Most agents don’t broadcast their job on social media for fear of hostile and hateful attacks against them and their families. 

·     While most of the aliens they encounter are generally good people, agents still regularly capture aliens who have open bench warrants for violent crimes, sexual offenses, and domestic violence. About one in three woman are sexually assaulted in their journey. Most young women are on contraceptives to prevent pregnancy during this journey.

·     Every single alien is fingerprinted and identified by the FBI database before determining what to do with them. 

·     Many silver alerts and amber alerts are apprehended at Border Patrol checkpoints. 

·     The agents provide a warm meal to the detained aliens as often as every 3-4 hours until their case is closed. 

·     The Border Patrol apprehends more dangerous narcotics than any other agency. 

·     Travelers through the checkpoints daily try to catch agents having a bad day and/or try to provoke them into losing their cool so they can post videos about them on social media. 

·     A large percentage of the agents are registered with the Democratic Party and vote as such. 

·     Agents are required to take refresher courses every year on topics such as proper care of aliens in detention, preventing assaults and reporting violent crimes, ethics, etc. 

·     The Border Patrol Academy is almost 6 months long, and the agents are required to pass all subjects, including Spanish, before graduating. 

·     Agents are trained annually on how to treat their wounds in event they are shot or injured, apply their own tourniquets, and bandage their own wounds, just in case. 

So, you’ve seen a snap shot of who they are and what they do. I’ll leave you with these parting words…

I’m proud to be friends with many agents of the Border Patrol. I know them to be honorable men and women who’s priorities lie with their faiths and families, and, despite being used as political pawns by politicians, they are stubbornly determined to carry out their sworn duty: to protect America and the American way of life. They are from all races, colors and creeds. There are Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Buddhists. They are black and white and red and brown. They come from Europe, Asia, Africa, Mexico, and South America. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. They live and work in isolated areas along both borders and endure harsh summers and cold winters. They risk their lives each and every day to do a job with little to no thanks. And they all—each and every one—love this country. I’m proud to say that I, as a patriot, stand along side these great Americans!


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