Those of you who've been reading my editorials for some time may recall that I've written about some of the border and immigration challenges our country faces. Specifically, I've written about the confrontation between Hudspeth County (Texas) deputies and Mexican soldiers at the Rio Grande after the deputies pursued three drug-packed SUVs (March 2006). I've also written about the danger of an open border and asked that you contact legislators when it seemed they had turned their backs on the need to secure the borders (July, 2007). I feel very strongly about illegal immigration because like many of you, I've worked some fatal traffic accidents, investigated homicides, rapes and robberies perpetrated by illegal aliens.
Recently, while working on a technology project near the U.S./Mexico border, I had an opportunity to see our U.S. Border Patrol at work, and I was incredibly impressed. Although I had worked with Border Patrol agents in the past, it was always on my turf in a city environment and near the coast. In this case, it was the middle of August, and the temperature was over 115 degrees F. Any right-minded person would be looking for air-conditioning or shade with a big, ice cold drink in their hand, but these agents were laboring in the middle of the desert, an area every bit as challenging and dangerous as the meanest streets in the country. Unfortunately, their job is made all the more difficult by two significant dynamics:
1. Similar to the conditions faced by our military troops, it's often very difficult to tell the difference between innocents and the real villains; and
2. Politicians seldom have their backs.
I saw agents staffing checkpoints, dismantling a car thought to contain drugs, patrolling remote roads and walking through areas much more friendly to rattlesnakes and gila monsters than human beings. To be perfectly candid, I'm not really sure how they do it. One determined female agent said simply, "You do what you've gotta do."
As the sun began to set, I saw a scene reminiscent of Star Wars. Dwarfed by huge sand dunes, a Border Patrol truck moved across an expansive area, stopping at observation towers that were being lifted skyward. I couldn't help but wonder how different the desert sands were once the blazing sun was replaced by darkened skies.
I have a lot of respect for the agents of the U.S. Border Patrol and their parent agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Recently, there was an excellent TV program produced by Chris Hanson (host of the "To Catch a Predator" series on NBC) regarding the job being done by CBP. The one-hour overview provides great insight to the challenges faced by the agency. You can access the entire broadcast at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25999369/.
Although the border is virtually wide open in many areas, it does appear that progress is being made. A physical wall is being built along large stretches of the border, massive agent recruitment is underway, and the Border Patrol is using some of the latest surveillance technology, which can see across incredible distances. Notably, the number of criminal deportations has increased significantly. Although border security is a top concern, we must prioritize the removal of predatory illegal aliens who are already inside this country, such as the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13), whose deadly impact has been so widespread that a nationwide sweep in 2005 resulted in the arrest of 700 gang members.
So, here's what you can do:
1. Determine your agency's policy regarding immigration. Some areas have bowed to political pressure and forbidden officers from working with the Border Patrol. If this is the situation you face, I encourage you to work within the system to effect change. Start by watching the above video and getting some facts as to the true mission of CBP. At a minimum, officers should be able to turn illegal alien lawbreakers over to the Border Patrol.
2. Develop a working relationship with the Border Patrol agents responsible for your area. You'll find them to be a wealth of information and capable of providing great insight to trends and troublemakers, and most of them are great translators.
The phrase, "front line of defense" has probably never applied to any agency more than the U.S. Border Patrol. They deserve our support.
Dale Stockton, Editor