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.

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

Share:

Ask me anything!

Submit Your Question

385 Questions

Share:

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 over 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.

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 over 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.

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 over 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 over 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 nurses...you'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.

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 over 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.

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 over 9 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 over 9 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.