Border Patrol Agent

Border Patrol Agent

Oscar

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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Last Answer on November 08, 2016

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Did you ever discover any drug tunnels? What's the most creative way you saw cartels getting drugs across the border?

Asked by olemiss2013 almost 10 years ago

Our area of responsibility (AOR) was extremely busy because of the lack of cities on the border.  The open desert and no wall made it very appetizing to the cartels.  The tunnels you hear about tend to be in more built-up areas, namely cities which span the border (Nogales, AZ etc.).

Tucson Sector is responsible for something like 70-80% of all of the intercepted drugs coming into the country.  Most common: vehicles and backpackers ("mules").  It was very common to find groups of 10-20 backpackers, each carrying between 40-70 lbs. of marijuana on their back.  Trucks would routinely be loaded with 1500-2500 lbs., depending on size.

When possible, you'd also see convoys of cartel trucks, 2-3 at a time (yep, up to 5-7,000 lbs of marijuana in a single lump).  Marijuana is the bread-winner of the cartels.  The cocaine/meth etc. is much more discreetly smuggled/handled.

In some places you'll intercept entire big-rig trucks with massive 10,000+ lb. loads.  During the "busy season" of the drug smuggling, we'd catch around 25-35,000 lbs. a month, all catches combined.

The most ingenious method is probably the single biggest threat: ultralights.  This is the most concerning development in cartel operations.  They have a rather large armada of ultralight aircraft, capable of carrying 200-600 lbs. of cargo across the border, quietly in the air.  Running radar trucks I would occasionally get calls from our massive air traffic radars in California - I'd scan up into the sky with my FLIR camera and I could see the small aircraft coming across the border.

We had no real way of tracking/engaging these ultralights.  Occasionally we'd have a Blackhawk helicopter who could catch them.  One National Guard F-16 accidentally forced one to crash when checking it out.  These little tiny ultralight aircraft would fly into the U.S. as far as Phoenix.  One actually flew through the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport's airspace --- causing them to place all commercial aircraft in a holding pattern.

The concern here is of course not marijuana (I support the legalization of that anyway - it's a farce); but the other potential cargo.  An ultralight could carry a couple of people (terrorists or other undesirables), or even a small weapon (a dirty bomb, chemical weapon etc.).  The ultralights were almost never properly intercepted or caught.  There are far too many intel reports about Al Qaeda and other organizations in Mexico and South America seeking to use the cartel's infiltration expertise.  This means that people or weapons could come in here very quickly, simply, and without detection.

So, personal opinion: ultralight aircraft are a serious problem.  Now, from a defensive perspective we could simply shoot them down - unannounced foreign aircraft crossing into U.S. airspace, etc. but the kinder/gentler modern U.S.A. would likely not abide such actions and would cry foul.

If you want info on drug tunnels, look into Nogales, AZ.  This place was so bad a few years before I joined the Patrol that we used to call it "Nogadishu", an homage to Mogadishu.  There was a time when cross-border shootings etc. were an every day occurence.  It was a bad place.

I know it was your job, but did you ever feel sorry for the illegal immigrants you caught, when they were just trying to find a better life?

Asked by StephTX almost 10 years ago

No. I only ever felt bad for the kids and children (especially those who died in the desert) because they didn't have a choice in the matter. Considering that 70% of the USBP was hispanic, "we" didn't have much sympathy for those coming across. Every illegal immigrant is a slap in the face to the 10's of thousands of people who bust their butts to enter the country legally through the correct channels. The USBP is pro-immigration...just legal immigration. We all agree there should be reforms to the current process, but taking the easy way out and breaking the law won't garner any sympathy from me.

Those ultralight aircraft are pretty crazy! Are we that far away from cartels using unmanned drones?

Asked by penang.rui almost 10 years ago

Remember ultralights are little flimsy aircraft run by lawn-mower motors etc.  I don't know how soon we'll be seeing unmanned drones from the cartels.  Now, cheap little camera-helicopters you can fly from your iPhone?  Maybe.  Maybe even some of the smaller, cheaper propeller driven ones eventually (the kind you can deploy as a single person, and control with a little control box from a backpack).  But genuine, long-distance, heavy duty drones with sophisticated cameras/weapons?  I wouldn't worry about that anytime soon.

What statute gives Border Patrol the authority to detain suspected illegal immigrants found near the border? IOW, even if you spot a group of obvious illegals in the desert, why don't they have the right to simply walk around you and refuse to talk?

Asked by 5678 almost 10 years ago

While this question is purely political/agenda driven in nature, I'll provide a short response.  There are numerous pieces of legislation which provide USBP and Customs officers various forms of authority within a certain radius of an international border (and by extension international airports which are technically also P.O.E's.).  As the distance increases from the border we have different levels of authority.  You can google and wikipedia the relevant laws and pieces of legislation which provide for this authority.  A similar number of restrictions apply to USBP checkpoints.

USBP Agents are also often assigned additional Customs authority depending on their job location. 

PS: If you happen to live near a USBP station they actually have all of this information available in handout pamphlets etc.  We always had boxes of them at our vehicle checkpoint. 

is there any way to know about a family member that was cought crosing the border ?

Asked by brittany12 over 9 years ago

There is no release of information from a station or sector level.  An illegal immigrant is only kept in custody at a station for less than 24 hours (often not more than 12).  As a safety precaution we do not release information/names/locations of individuals in custody.

A person can contact the Mexican/Other consulate within 24-36 hours and they should keep a record of people returned to their country.  In the event that an illegal immigrant is sent to jail or prosecuted they will eventually get a chance to make a phone call/contact relatives etc. (like a normal incarcerated/prosecuted person).

 

What was the most clever or inventive way you've seen illegals attempt to cross the border? How about the dumbest?

Asked by Elle C. almost 10 years ago

Most clever that I personally encountered was a Mexican man who made his gown Ghillie suit (a camouflage suit that military snipers make out of netting/branches/grass etc.).  He had made it about seven miles into the country but surrended when a USBP horse patrol unit came so close they were about to step on him.

The dumbest was likely one of the many counterfeit vans which they tried to sneak across the border.  Mexicans occasionally try to recreate USBP vehicles.  They never do a very good job and you can pick them out almost immediately.

This particular van was painted up as a USBP van, had a cage inside etc.  However, about 1/4 mile into the U.S. the driver decided to bail out and run back south.  Because they'd taken so much time to replicate a USBP van, the inside of the van had a locked cage.  Units following the van saw the drive flee - and he left 30 other Mexicans locked up in the van.  Easiest apprehension those agents ever made.

Can you still join the Border Patrol if you have tattoos or is it not allowed?Thank you for your time!

Asked by Sam over 9 years ago

Tattoos are not a concern, unless you have obscenities or graphic content displayed on your neck/face/hands etc.  If you have "normal" tattoos which are reasonable it is not a problem.