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.

SubscribeGet emails when new questions are answered. Ask Me Anything!Show Bio +


Ask me anything!

Submit Your Question

383 Questions


Last Answer on November 08, 2016

Best Rated

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 9 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.

Just how porous is the U.S. / Mexico border? What percentage of it would you estimate is monitored in some capacity for illegal aliens?

Asked by dan79 almost 9 years ago

The U.S./Mexico international border is extremely porous. While on paper the entire border is monitored, the reality is that our capacity to deter/intercept all of the illegal traffic is mediocre at best. Judging by the traffic patterns I saw, I would estimate my station/sector's capability at perhaps 30% of the overall traffic is intercepted effectively.

Did you ever find yourself dehumanizing the Mexicans you caught along the border? Like did you got so desensitized to your job that you began to see them as pests? Or did you always view them with the same dignity you'd view anyone else?

Asked by JBaskin almost 9 years ago

You never end up dehumanizing people.  That being said, business is business, work is work, and the law is the law.  Our job isn't to hug and nurture people, it's to apprehend them and secure the border as best as possible.

In that regard you become like most seasoned EMT's and're doing your job.  The emotional baggage is best left behind.  Anyone in a line of service (EMT's, firefighters, paramedics, cops etc.) definitely gets very accustomed to "crap".  You run into enough tragedies, evil, wickedness, violence, abuse etc. that you become quite accustomed to it.  You just accept it and move along with your job.

The people we apprehended were dealt with quickly, efficiently and professionally.  We don't coddle people, but we don't beat them or treat them like animals etc.

How does official US Border Patrol feel about the private Minuteman militia who "safeguard" the border? Are they a welcome teammate, or a lunatic fringe group who does more harm than good?

Asked by Jax almost 9 years ago

From an official standpoint, obviously the Border Patrol does not endorse or condone "vigilante" style groups like the Minutemen.  That being said, I don't mind them.  We were required to report them and confront them if we found them operating in our AOR.  This was rare though, as our sector was far too busy.  We had a lot of people who would call in and help us (even had a lady who erected a watchtower in her backyard).

I never viewed the Minutemen as a "lunatic fringe" group.  Most of the people are farmers/landowners or friends/relatives of them...people who are suffering at the hands of the border problem.

The stories of American citizens being forced to leave or sell their homes and land because of the flow of illegals/cartel members etc. is heartbreaking.  So, officialy -no we don't support them, but on a personal level none of us really cared.  We never had any citizens arrests etc.

You said that Al Qaeda is looking to leverage the cartels' intel and such -- are the cartels thought to be friendly to such requests? Do they care at all as long as they get paid? Or would that guarantee to bring a ton of heat on them from the US?

Asked by baconops almost 9 years ago

I wish I could give you a concise and accurate answer.  There are numerous terrorist organizations who have been located in Mexico, dealing or working with the cartels.  Simply put the cartels are the masters of infiltrating the U.S., using their expertise.

A week after 9/11 a dozen Chechens were caught coming across the Southern border.  Hezbollah militants have been spotted in Mexico.  I do believe the cartels know full well this could bring a lot of heat if something horrible can be traced back to them.  However, unfortunately, we had a saying in the Patrol "we only catch the dumb ones".  It's very simple to catch trucks driving through the desert carrying dope, or catching large groups of illegals walking blatantly across the border.

But small, secret tunnels, small nearly-undetectable ultralight aircraft, etc. are much harder to locate.  I suspect any genuine terrorist activity is kept well below our radar.  Imagine the funds available to Al Qaeda, Hezbollah etc.  I'm sure they can make it financially worthwhile to the cartels to assist them.

I think it deserves some serious attention - and we have intelligence agencies pursuing this exact possibility.  I wish I knew more about it to answer more appropriately.

What percentage of illegals attempting to cross the border would you estimate are successfully intercepted by Border Patrol? Is that figure improving or worsening compared to past years?

Asked by Quezon almost 9 years ago

I'd say that of the groups that we detected or spotted we apprehended around 30-35%.  That figure improved quite a bit following 9/11, as DHS/CBP had a large hiring push and went from around 8,000 agents to around 16,000.

Since then it seems to have been pretty steady.  As apprehensions increase the Mexicans and cartel guys become a bit more creative.  It's a constant back and forth.  There is no genuine progress being made toward "shutting down the border" or "stopping illegal immigration" etc.  Unfortunately that is not a political goal of either party.

How easy is it to forge a US passport? Even if you could get the look and feel right, isn't it basically impossible to embed the scannable barcode part? And wouldn't you have to hack the passport database to add a record so that it swiped properly?

Asked by smithy almost 9 years ago

Forging a U.S. Passport would be very difficult.  Now, everything can be done at a certain price, so high-level criminals could likely swing a pretty convincing copy.  However, with the advent of barcodes/scanning techniques this has now become incredibly difficult.  Anyone can reproduce some watermarks, type, and photos...but to pass a scanning machine is extremely difficult.

I wish I had more opportunity to work a P.O.E. with Customs guys as this was something I had little experience in.  More common were fake Mexican ID cards - carried by people from other countries, trying to pass as Mexicans.  These were almost always cheap copies and easily detected/exposed.