Sep 15, 2019

Border Patrol agents complain about national backlash

Border Patrol agent Carlos Ruiz spots undocumented immigrants in Penitas, Texas, September. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are suffering from a crisis in morale after facing severe national backlash as the once obscure law enforcement job moves into the spotlight of the immigration debate, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: Despite support from the White House and members of Congress and a decent middle-class wage, many agents have grown disillusioned with their jobs and the agency remains about 1,800 agents short of its hiring targets.

What they're saying: Chris Harris, who was an agent for 21 years and a Border Patrol union official until he retired, told the Times that agents are struggling with national criticism.

  • "To have gone from where people didn’t know much about us to where people actively hate us, it’s difficult," he said. "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."
  • “The intense criticism that is being directed at the Border Patrol is necessary and important because I do think that there’s a culture of cruelty or callousness,” said Francisco Cantú, a former agent. “There’s a lack of oversight. There is a lot of impunity.”

Context: The 20,000 agents of the Border Patrol have faced criticism for being the arm of the Trump administration's immigration policies, the revelation of a private Facebook group for agents filed with racist posts and the deaths of 10 immigrants in the custody of the Border Patrol and its parent agency.

The other side: Natalia Nunez, a college student in Calexico, California, told the Times that Border Patrol agents are fixtures in many communities.

  • "Being in the Border Patrol is a normal thing around here," she said. "I have three cousins who are agents. I have friends whose parents are agents. They aren’t supposed to talk about it. I wonder how they can sleep at night if they have to lock up kids in cages like animals."

Go deeper

Muslim American mayor says border agents wrongfully detained him

Mayor Mohamed Khairullah attending a documentary screening in Jersey City, New Jersey, May 3, 2017. Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images.

Mohamed Khairullah, the mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, told CNN that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents wrongfully detained him after he and his family got off a plane at JFK International Airport last month from a vacation in Turkey.

Why it matters: He said agents detained him for 3 hours and confiscated his phone for 12 days. While his family waited outside the interview room, they asked him if he met with any terrorists during his vacation.

Go deeperArrowSep 15, 2019

Trump suggested shooting southern border migrants, NYT book excerpt claims

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

An adaptation published Tuesday of the upcoming book "Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration," details President Trump's plans to secure the southern border with snake-filled trenches and shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down.

The big picture: The book by New York Times reporters Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis is based on interviews with more than a dozen anonymous White House and administration officials involved in Trump's attempts to implement immigration policy and fulfill his campaign promises on the issue.

Go deeperArrowOct 2, 2019

Nearly 1 million migrants apprehended on southern border in FY 2019

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Trump administration apprehended a total of 1 million migrants at the southwest border of the U.S. in fiscal year 2019, Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

Why it matters: That figure is 88% higher than it was in 2018 and the highest total of any fiscal year since 2007. However, Morgan said those numbers have declined significantly in recent months — with September marking the lowest number of apprehensions for the year. He cited President Trump's June 7 deal with Mexico to stem the flow of migration as a factor in the steep drop.

Go deeper: Acting CBP head touts falling border numbers at rare press briefing