Above photo: Overcrowding of families observed by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General on June 10, 2019, at Border Patrol’s McAllen, Texas, station. OIG.
It’s no surprise that there are claims of a new crisis on our border. A new year, a new administration, new policies in regard to who can cross and how they are processed will always bring a crisis claim from one side or the other. Depending on which side you are on politically often determines how you feel about migrants coming to our country. Conservatives usually feel we allow too many migrants to enter; liberals believe we should allow more.
That is a generalized statement of course. There are all sorts of nuances about our immigration policies and what we believe to be the best course of action. In my activism, I have come across few who believe we should have completely closed or completely open borders. Most want humane immigration laws, but with some reasonable amount of precautions to protect Americans from truly dangerous people.
In my twenty-five years of studying immigration, policies and our borders, I have seen the differences in how four different presidents approach and handle those who illegally enter our country through the southern border. In terms of policy, presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama were not that different. All three built walls, increased the budget of the Border Patrol, poured resources into militarizing our southern border and increasingly limited the number of those who would be admitted into the country.
Trump was different of course. While it’s true that he could not have been able to enact such brutal policies if his predecessors had not paved the way, he was still notably different. Trump did not seek advice on immigration policies from anyone but the Border Patrol and Steven Miller who represented the anti-immigrant hate faction that spread racist, fear-mongering tropes about Black and brown migrants carrying disease, being drug dealers, gang members, murders and rapists. He made policy based on late night texts with a handful of Border Patrol agents who represented the union like Art del Cueto who once gleefully stated:
“If you’re coming into this country illegally, if you’re coming into this country without being detected, going out of your way not to be detected, then you’re a terrorist to this country and you need to be taken care of.”
It’s not possible to know yet if President Biden will be any different from his predecessors. My best guess is that he will be much like Obama; not as cruel as Trump, but not kind either. While Democrats are more open to allowing asylum seekers and refugees into the country, they are extremely fearful of seeming soft on immigration. Each president has to decide how to handle this political hot potato, and it can make or brake their legacy.
For all the changes there is one constant everyone is ignoring: the U.S. Border Patrol is often the creator of border crises. They will mislead, manipulate statistics and even outright lie to the press, the public and even Congress to constantly keep a border crisis of some sort going on our southern border.
Let me remind you that the Trump Administration and the Border Patrol created the child separation crisis. When the media discovered it, Border Patrol agent and union President Brandon Judd went on NPR and stated they were not separating kids. That was a flat out lie. Then the agency stated they had no choice, that they had always separated kids from parents and that it happens to Americans who were arrested all the time. None of which was true. Former Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen even claimed there was no separation policy even though she signed the policy on April 23, 2018. Then the agency claimed they had stopped the separations when the hadn’t. This crisis then morphed into the crisis of not being able to reunite the families they had separated.
When the agency wanted to create the crisis that the southern border was dangerous and that migrants were violent, they looked at their own statistics to prove it. Only those statistics did not support their argument. So, in 2017 they simply changed how they counted assaults on agents by migrants. As Debbie Nathan proved, the agency increased the number of assaults by multiplying the factors:
“…an incident in the Rio Grande Valley Sector on February 14, 2017, involved seven U.S. Border Patrol Agents assaulted by six subjects utilizing three different types of projectiles (rocks, bottles, and tree branches), totaling 126 assaults.”
Before this multiplying manipulation, this incident would have been considered as either one event or perhaps seven assaults against the seven agents, but not 126 assaults. The agency then reported to Congress that they had seen a 73% increase of migrant violence against agents further demonstrating their desired outcome that there was a crisis on the border even though it was a lie.
Today, the agency is once again creating a crisis. First, agents began expelling all migrants back to Mexico regardless of their nationality or age without processing their asylum cases by improperly using Title 42 Covid-19 laws. The kids we see crossing today are a combination of a year’s worth of these expulsions that left children at risk to gangs and cartel and other children who are currently traveling to the U.S.
Secondly, agents were allotted $112 million by Congress in 2019 to spend on migrant care and facilities. Specifically, this funding was for processing facilities to avoid cramped conditions in the future. Only the agency spent much of that money buying ATVs, boats and dirt bikes instead. And now we find that the Border Patrol is once again cruelly holding families outside underneath a bridge in Texas again just as they did in 2019 in a pen referred to as a dog kennel.
Last but not least, Border Patrol has had years and billions of dollars thrown at them to build better, larger and more humane processing facilities. The truth is that they have chosen to spend that money elsewhere or simply taken many of the facilities down. In May of 2020, Border Patrol confirmed the deconstruction of the temporary processing facilities across the southern border:
“CBP plans to begin demobilization soft-sided facilities in Yuma, El Paso and Rio Grande Valley Sectors and associated wrap around services by the end of May. Demobilization of the Yuma facility began in mid-May and the remaining facilities will begin demobilization by the end of the month. Border Patrol has continuously monitored trends in both the volume and demographics of southwest border apprehensions in recent months to assess the need for continued operation of soft-sided facilities. Under COVID-19 policies, in April the number of individuals in Border Patrol custody along the southwest border each day further declined to around 100. Therefore, CBP has determined that the additional temporary capacity provided by the soft-sided facilities is not necessary for current operations.”
There is no doubt that politicians and right-wing anti-immigrant groups are constantly fanning the flames of anti-immigrant sentiments. Parties on both sides have played politics with the border for decades. This is nothing new. And there are politicians and administrative officials that have helped to create policies that then create these crises.
I say this as a former agent…the crisis on our border is the Border Patrol and its agents. The crisis is that we are using a law enforcement agency steeped in racist, anti-immigrant ideology to address what is a humanitarian issue. It would seem we have all forgotten who these agents are.
These are the same agents who recently neglected children in their custody and made them take care of each other. Children as young as toddlers had matted hair with lice, shirts covered with snot and tears, roamed around cells with diapers full of feces and urine.
These are the same agents that gleefully crammed asylum seekers into small cells with one toilet for weeks at a time and fed them rotten food.
These are the same agents who forced a pregnant woman to give birth while standing up into her pants.
These are the same agents who groped and fondled women and girls seeking asylum.
These are the same agents who let at least six children die in their custody, an unprecedented number.
These are the same agents who allowed a teenage boy to die in their custody from a fever after nurses told them to take him to the hospital. Agents who instead let his body lay on the filthy processing floor for over four hours while they deleted much of the video tape.
These are the same agents who have intentionally run over migrants with their trucks, beaten migrants to death, raped migrants and shot children as they play near their homes in Mexico. These are the same agents who call them “wetbacks” and “toncs” and ‘sub-human.”
I know this because I was one of them.
They do not see migrants as humans. They do not have compassion for them. They speak of migrants as criminals, liars and invaders intent to steal our jobs and welfare. They view their children as soon to be criminals and invaders. In the Border Patrol, there is no difference between an asylum seeker and a rapist or a murderer, no difference between an adult and a child.
We will continue to see these crises if we continue to use the Border Patrol as a means to deal with asylum seekers instead of creating an actual asylum system. They will continue to brutalize them while claiming they had no choice and demanding that they be called heroes.