Maybe if the Border Patrol leadership didn't lick Trump's boots with such vigor, they wouldn't have these problems
Maybe if the Border Patrol leadership didn’t lick Trump‘s boots with such vigor, they wouldn’t have these problems
The New York Times reports that some Border Patrol agents don’t like their jobs much these days. With the kitchen workers spitting in their food and having to cage children and all it’s not much fun. People don’t like them.
For decades, the Border Patrol was a largely invisible security force. Along the southwestern border, its work was dusty and lonely. Between adrenaline-fueled chases, the shells of sunflower seeds piled up outside the windows of their idling pickup trucks. Agents called their slow-motion specialty “laying in” — hiding in the desert and brush for hours, to wait and watch, and watch and wait.
Two years ago, when President Trump entered the White House with a pledge to close the door on illegal immigration, all that changed. The nearly 20,000 agents of the Border Patrol became the leading edge of one of the most aggressive immigration crackdowns ever imposed in the United States.
No longer were they a quasi-military organization tasked primarily with intercepting drug runners and chasing smugglers. Their new focus was to block and detain hundreds of thousands of migrant families fleeing violence and extreme poverty — herding people into tents and cages, seizing children and sending their parents to jail, trying to spot those too sick to survive in the densely packed processing facilities along the border.
They asked for it, Remember? This was March of 2016:
Calling Donald Trump “the only candidate who actually threatens the established powers that have betrayed this county,” the National Border Patrol Council endorsed the New York businessman for president on Wednesday.
The NBPC says it has never endorsed a presidential candidate in the primaries. But in a statement, it says it is “breaking with past practice.” Trump has made immigration a key part of his campaign for the GOP nomination, repeatedly promising to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, and to force the Mexican government to pay for it.
I’m sorry it’s unpleasant for them now. But it’s been deadly for the people they’ve been incarcerating, people many of them seem to truly hate:
Earlier this year, the disclosure of a private Facebook group where agents posted sexist and callous references to migrants and the politicians who support them reinforced the perception that agents often view the vulnerable people in their care with frustration and contempt.
Interviews with 25 current and former agents in Texas, California and Arizona — some conducted on the condition of anonymity so the agents could speak more candidly — paint a portrait of an agency in a political and operational quagmire. Overwhelmed through the spring and early summer by desperate migrants, many agents have grown defensive, insular and bitter.
The president of the agents’ union said he had received death threats. An agent in South Texas said some colleagues he knew were looking for other federal law enforcement jobs. One agent in El Paso told a retired agent he was so disgusted by scandals in which the Border Patrol has been accused of neglecting or mistreating migrants that he wanted the motto emblazoned on its green-and-white vehicles — “Honor First” — scratched off.
“To have gone from where people didn’t know much about us to where people actively hate us, it’s difficult,” said Chris Harris, who was an agent for 21 years and a Border Patrol union official until he retired in June 2018. “There’s no doubt morale has been poor in the past, and it’s abysmal now. I know a lot of guys just want to leave.”
By and large, the agency has been a willing enforcer of the Trump administration’s harshest immigration policies. In videos released last year, Border Patrol agents could be seen destroying water jugs left in a section of the Arizona desert where large numbers of migrants have been found dead.
Some of those who worked at the agency in earlier years said that it had changed over the past decade, and that an attitude of contempt toward migrants — the view that they are opportunists who brought on their own troubles and are undeserving of a warm welcome — is now the rule, not the exception.
Who can we thank for that?
Trump jumped on the immigration bandwagon when he got into politics seriously with the birther movement and paid Sam Nunberg to listen to talk radio and tell him what they were all saying. Those people above along with others in hate radio made the anti-immigration movement what it is today.
The Border Patrol was established in 1924. Early agents were recruited from the Texas Rangers and local sheriff’s offices. They focused largely on Prohibition-era whiskey bootleggers, often supplying their own horses and saddles. Though horseback units still exist, the culture of the agency bears little resemblance to its past.
It has become a sprawling arm of Customs and Border Protection, the country’s largest federal law enforcement agency, which is responsible for 7,000 miles of America’s northern and southern borders, 95,000 miles of shoreline and 328 ports of entry. On a practical level, the Border Patrol’s hubs along the Mexican border, known as sectors, operate in some ways as fiefs.
In border cities, sector chiefs become household names, delivering annual State of the Border speeches. In the 1990s, an El Paso sector chief, Silvestre Reyes, used his popularity to win a seat in Congress.
Guess who primaried Reyes and kicked him out of congress?
The CBP agents love them some Trump:
Mr. Trump “said it to us, he said it in public, ‘I’m going to consider you guys, the union, the subject-matter experts on how we secure the border,’” said Mr. Harris, the former agent and Border Patrol union official from Southern California who retired last year. “We had never heard that from anyone before.”
That’s mainly because we don’t have cops making the law in this democratic country. Or, at least, we didn’t used to. That’s not their job.
The private Facebook group, which was created in 2016 and had more than 9,000 members, became a forum for agents to vent about the increasingly thankless nature of their jobs and the failure of successive administrations to fully secure the border.
Some agents who were members of the group said the tone of the posts shifted after Mr. Trump’s election, becoming raunchier and more politically tinged. A post mocked the death of a 16-year-old migrant while in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Tex., with an image reading “Oh well.” A member used an expletive to propose throwing burritos at two Latina congresswomen.
Why wouldn’t it have gotten worse after Trump was elected. The whole damned country has gotten worse.
The union says it was just some bad apples of course. Blowing off steam, no doubt:
In some ways, though, the posts reflected a culture that was long apparent in parts of the agency. For years, the Border Patrol has quietly tolerated racist terminology. Some agents refer to migrants as “wets,” a shortened version of “wetbacks.” Others call them “toncs.”
Jenn Budd, a former agent of six years who is now an outspoken critic, said a supervisor at her Border Patrol station in California had explained the term “tonc” to her: “He said, ‘It’s the sound a flashlight makes when you hit a migrant in the head with it.’”
Josh Childress, a former agent in Arizona who quit in 2018 because the job had begun to wear him down, said the Facebook posts hinted at a deeper, darker problem in the agency’s culture. “The jokes are not the problem,” he said. “Treating people as if they aren’t people is the problem.”
It is the problem and it goes all the way to the top “joker” who calls these people animals and terrorists.
The rest of the story is worth reading. They talked to a lot of people and it’s clear that some of them are extremely unhappy with what’s happening in the agency. Many of them feel trapped because it’s a secure middle-class government job that gave them a way out of poverty. Those agents are being failed by their Trump cultist leadership. The rest are co-conspirators.