Border Patrol Agent

Border Patrol Agent


Charleston, SC

Male, 31

Spent a bit over four years (2006-2010) serving as a Border Patrol Agent in Tucson Sector, AZ: the busiest sector in the country. Worked numerous positions, and spent the last year and a half operating/instructing ground radar installations. Duties included: field patrols, transport, processing, control room duties, transportation check, checkpoint operations, static watch duties, etc.

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385 Questions


Last Answer on November 08, 2016

Best Rated

What happens to an illegal if he's caught on the US side of the border? Is he always deported, and how soon does that happen?

Asked by LeahChass over 11 years ago

The answer to this question is two-fold: theory and reality. The theory is that illegal immigrants will be intercepted/apprehended within 25-50 miles of the international border. If they make it into the country, we "hope" that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) will manage to apprehend some. Most police departments/sheriff's offices in the U.S. will attempt to contact their local I.C.E/USBP office if they have an aggravated felon who is an illegal, etc. For the most part, once an illegal enters the country and is not apprehended, his chance of deportation drops immensely. Most police departments/sheriff's offices do not have the money/manpower/capability to actively transfer/hold illegals etc. When illegal immigrants are caught by the Border Patrol they are assembled at a processing station, finger-printed, recorded and their information is entered into an immigration database. If they have a previous criminal history, they are held for proper deportation/prosecution. About 80% of illegal immigrants have no criminal history within the United States. These individuals are processed and returned to Mexico (or their country of origin) within 24 hours. That is our requirement. It is not uncommon in some sectors that an illegal can be apprehended, processed and returned to Mexico through a designated Port of Entry (P.O.E.) within 12 hours or less. It is important to note that an immigration removal for a normal illegal immigrant is referred to as a Voluntary Return - or a VR. This means, that the illegal immigrant is not entered into the U.S.'s FBI database as a criminal (even though they have broken a federal law). This would overload the entire FBI system. These illegal immigrants are only entered into our immigration database so we can monitor the number of times they have been apprehended, and keep tabs on them. Illegal immigrants from other countries are referred to as O.T.M's (Other Than Mexican) and are processed differently. They will be processed and held until a plane is available to take them to their country of origin. I've caught Greeks, Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Guatemalans, Ecuadorians, El Salvadorians etc. The process for O.T.M's can take several weeks - as we often wait for a plane-load of illegal immigrants to be assembled. Obviously we can not afford to be flying planes into other countries with only a handful of passengers. Illegal immigrants from distant countries I believe are transferred to I.C.E. who manage long-distance removals.

If the worst thing that can happen to an illegal you catch coming in from Mexico is that he gets booted back home without any criminal charge, what's to stop him from just trying to enter illegally again the next day? Do you jail repeat offenders?

Asked by Aroid over 11 years ago

You've hit the nail on the head.  There is little to no real consequence to entering the country illegally.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Our country bends over and actively pursues business/hiring/employment etc. of illegal immigrants.  I've interviewed thousands of illegal immigrants and they readily admit they come here because it's easy and welcoming.

The USBP does have the discretion to deport anyone that enters the country illegally.  While this enters you into the FBI system as an actual criminal (with an actual criminal record to go along with it) we simply do not have the time/manpower to do this.  It takes 12-15 forms, and 2-4 hours of paperwork per person for a proper deportation.  To put things in perspective my station covered only 10 miles of international border.  We used to catch upwards of 700 people per day.  You can see the impossible scale of the problem.

Even someone who is deported can still enter into the U.S. again within a few hours.  It was very common to apprehend people with paperwork and baggage tags from the previous day.  The common practice was the simply cross as many times as possible, until you got through.

Long story short, there are no real genuine consequences.

What's the best idea you've heard about how to stop the revolving door of repeat offenders who get deported and just try again because they're never incarcerated?

Asked by pinkypink4 over 11 years ago

There is one, and only one real solution - and once again, something we'll never do.  America needs to stop supporting illegal immigrants.  End of story.

No credit cards.  No houses.  No apartments.  No jobs.  No social programs.  No medical care.  No driver's licenses. Close/arrest any shop and any employer who employs/houses/supports illegal immigrants.  It would require the entire country to turn it's back on illegal immigrants.

Unfortunately the American way is cheaper, easier...regardless of the future cost or the country's well-being.

Remove the incentive to come to the U.S., and you solve the illegal immigration problem.  Make the only option: legally becoming a citizen the correct way.  Couple this with immigration reform which makes becoming a citizen more streamlined, easy, and accessible and you have a chance.

Think about the average American.  They'd rather save 20% on their vegetables than pay an American a decent wage to work on a farm.  We've tainted the "working man's" jobs here in the U.S.  Taken jobs which were once a respectable way to earn a living, and made them into jobs that only illegal immigrants should or would do.  All in the aim of saving a buck.


Do Mexican authorities provide any help on THEIR side of the border? What could they even do...tell someone "hey, get back here, you're not allowed to walk in that direction"?

Asked by Broseph over 11 years ago

They do very little.  In fact, sadly almost every form of Mexican authority is plagued with a large amount of corruption.  It was more common for Mexican police to extort bribes out of Mexicans...and then send them on their way.  They would also abuse/harass O.T.M's very often.  There is no real Mexican border patrol on the U.S. border, except around larger cities/P.O.E.'s.

Mexican police were not trustworthy.  Mexican military were equally questionable (they often patrol the border, battling the cartels).  Mexican customs is a joke.  In addition to this, there are the cartels (who effectively run/coordinate everything), and then "bandidos" or bandits - groups of thugs who'd sneak into the U.S. but only to prey on groups of illegal immigrants heading North.  They would jump them in the mountains or distant areas, stealing their money and supplies etc.

Mexican police and military units frequently cross the U.S. border into our country.  In one instance they actually seized one of my station's agents along the border road.  They claimed he was a fake agent, preparing to assist in a smuggling operation.  This ended up in a tense standoff between their police/military and our agents (including our SRT/BORTAC units).

We would occasionally contact the Mexican police when we spotted something fishy on their side of the line.  We would occasionally see dead bodies, or in one instance an SUV (which turned out to be loaded with chopped up bodies).  They would begrudgingly respond and investigate.

We would also contact them if we had criminals heading south (we often had U.S. citizens committing heinous crimes and trying to flee South to Mexico, murderers and kidnappers etc.).  Occasionally they would respond and try to assist finding them.  In general though, very little cooperation between our two countries.

What's the training to work with border patrol? Do you have to be a police officer first?

Asked by BOT over 11 years ago

This has changed several times since I was in the Patrol.  When I applied, it took approximately 6 months from application to arriving at the USBP Academy at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Artesia, NM.  During those six months you do a physical, an initial test, a foreign-language suitability test, an oral interview, background investigation, additional paperwork etc.

Once at the FLETC, our academy was 20 weeks (5 months) long.  During this time you had 3-4 hours of classes per day, 2+ hours of physical instruction, practical exercises, etc.   The Patrol is very paramilitary, so you march around as a class etc.  You take a huge course load ranging from immigration law to terrorist detection etc.  Most of your classes are based on immigration and naturlization law.  Your PT instructors will run you through all of your physical-based training, such as handcuffing techniques, stacking drills, even a week spent in the pool (in case you end up along the Rio Grande or somewhere with water).

It's a very lengthy academy.  It's not overly difficult though you have numerous pass/fail instances while there.  You train for about 14 weeks on firearms handling manipulations, emergency and non-emergency vehicle operations, including high speed pursuits, felony stops, and off-road vehicle handling.  You'll learn radio operation and proper communication techniques, deportation paperwork handling and processing etc.

It's a rather extensive academy.  You also spend three hours a day learning Spanish.  Each BP class (appproximately 50 trainees) is divided by level of Spanish.  The fluent native speakers have it very easy, whereas people who don't have to work rather hard to catch on.

Once you pass the academy and return to your assigned station you enter an additional 7+ months of trainee status.  You'll spend one day a week doing more training, and will be assigned to your stations Field Training Unit (FTU).  You'll be quizzed and tested on law, proper field procedures, Spanish etc.  When I was in, we had a 7 and a 10 month exam.  Each of these tested law and Spanish.   These were pass/fail and were really stressful.

After all of this, you'll work as a normal field agent...albeit on probation (I believe a two year probationary status is normal).

Since I was in the Patrol much of this has changed.  They shortened the academy and cut several classes.  I'm not entirely sure what the system is right now.

Regarding prior law enforcement training: this is now taken into account when you apply to become a Border Patrol Agent.  While you do not skip the academy, you can take a test or interview I believe to start as a GS9 (higher pay grade).  This means depending on your experience and resume you can join the Patrol as a GS5, GS7, or GS9 (different pay scales).


Do you think the Mexican cartel violence is creeping into the US? Haven't there been many murders recently, even far North of the border, that police think are related to drug activity in Mexico?

Asked by Davies over 11 years ago

It's not "creeping", it's here.  The drug cartels are extremely large, powerful organizations and their reach expands throughout all of the U.S. and Canada, albeit not nearly as distinctly as in Mexico.

If they don't run it, they have some say in it - or want to have some say in it.  Keep in mind these are organizations who are going toe-to-toe with the Mexican federal police and military...and winning.

The death toll along the Mexican border (thankfully, mostly on the South side) is something beyond 60,000 people in five years.  That's more civilians/cartel/police dead than soldiers we lost in Vietnam.  The violence down there is shockingly bad.  Luckily the cartels are just smart enough to go very subdued in the U.S.

In border areas you will see a lot of cartel vs. cartel violence.  In the desert, in run-down towns, and even places like Phoenix and Tucson.  It's direct and violent, but rarely covered by news, and even more rarely attributed to cartels.  There have been instances where cartel hitmen have dressed up as fake Phoenix and Tucson PD SWAT teams to raid each other's stash houses.

Cartels battle each other in the deserts of Southern Arizona pretty often.  We'd happen upon shooting sites fairly often.  There are many places in Texas where landowners have abandoned their own land because cartel operations and traffic are too heavy.  In my station's AOR we had areas where you simply did not go unless you had backup (preferably in force).

So the cartel presence is definitely within the U.S.  As much as they can they're trying to keep mass violence to a minimum because they know it will draw too much attention.  They know if they start dumping truck-loads of dismembered bodies on the highways here it might actually make the news and people would start paying attention.

As far as murders and violence deeper within the U.S. (and yes, into Canada) - if it's drug related it could very well be cartel related.  There are many gangs and small criminal enterprises who work heavily with the cartels or on their behalf etc.

We're a long way from having a situation as bad as Mexico, though it does cross the border sometimes if you have a small town really close to Mexico.  I sat in a truck one night with a buddy of mine who's Mexican girlfriend was on the phone with him for two hours while a huge gun battle was raging around her house.  On speaker phone we could hear the constant automatic weapons fire, and boom of grenades (possibly RPG's).  She only lived about 20 miles into Mexico.  Luckily we're not "there" yet.  I hope we never are.

From the public's perspective, the Fast and Furious scheme to sell assault rifles to drug cartels and follow them seems beyond insane. As someone with more intimate knowledge of the unique cross-border challenges...just how crazy was it in reality?

Asked by e2e4 over 11 years ago

The Fast and Furious scheme is one of the absolute worst violations of public power I've seen.  If this were a different legislation, heads would roll.

While we didn't have any direct experience with it (from an operation standpoint) we suffered the penalties for their idiocy.  No knowledgable law enforcement official in the country would ever support a program which allows strawman purchases of firearms.  Those firearms have ended up in several dozen crime scenes in the U.S., including the death of BPA Brian Terry.

Unfortunately there is a huge political component to this, which is aimed squarely at criminalizing U.S. gun owners - blaming them for guns ending up in Mexico, etc.  That's the most infuriating part.  This was an example of some politicians and some stupid agency officials pushing their own agendas...with American citizens (and other agents) paying the price for it.  An absolute shame.