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.
Submit Your Question
Want to give an inside look at your job?Host a Q&A
Yep, very depressing and stressful. Living in AZ it's more than obvious we're not making much of a difference. From Phoenix to the border the state has been flooded with illegal immigrants. You'd see hundreds daily just on the drive in to work. So, short answer - no I did not feel like we were making much of a difference.
It was also very obvious from the agency perspective that there was no genuine desire to effect real change. The USBP is about 50% just a dog and pony show. But we all knew that. We busted our butts, worked hard - but at the end of the day we knew the government etc. was not genuinely serious about "closing the border".
Absolutely not. While the Border Patrol is paramilitary in its operations and organization, we still follow normal law enforcement procedures.
Most non-cartel related illegals are not bringing firearms here, though it does happen on occasion. They are often for self-defense from bandits etc., and not for use agains the Border Patrol. Remember, in Mexico firearms are "illegal", meaning only the powerful, rich, and cartels (who are both powerful and rich) have weapons.
The cartels on the other hand are extremely well armed, moreso than the Border Patrol. However, there is a small amount of common sense in the cartel members higher up. They know if they begin a big shooting war with the Border Patrol that security will be stepped up and we'll bring the military to the border etc. They predominantly stick to shooting at each other and the Mexican police and military (I've witnessed running gun battles on the Mexican side from a radar post).
Even once in the U.S., cartel groups are normally armed in order to fight each other. We had numerous running gunfights up and down I-10 (main highway from Tucson to Phoenix/California), and gunfights in Tucson, Phoenix and other cities. There are a lot of shootings in the desert between cartels, bandits, and groups of illegals. It is normally rare for a BP Agent to be shot at. This is often a couple of pot shots taken at us from across the border.
I've been on duty during a couple of shootings, but have not been shot at personally. Likewise, I've drawn my gun in numerous cases and have been fortunate enough to not need to use it. I've had a fair share of incidents where someone tried to run me over in a vehicle/run me off the road etc.
It does happen though. Like all law enforcement, we are absolutely justified in using lethal force when threatened with extreme bodily harm/death etc. In the weeks before I left the Patrol we had five shootings in our area: two were agent involved shootings, one was a sheriff involved shooting, and two more between illegals and bandits. Only one of these even made the local paper.
The USBP and other government agencies do everything in their power to keep the situation on the border hush-hush. They don't want people to realize that it's the wild west out there. The coverage you see on television, and NATGEO is about 10% of the nonsense going on out there.
Now to address your last question - I don't believe ANY law enforcement agency in the country has a policy allowing you to shoot an unarmed person fleeing you (except perhaps in the case of a prisoner fleeing a prison?). This is what we in the community would refer to as a "bad shoot", meaning the employment of lethal force outside of our "use of force continuum" = a detailed policy which dictates what levels of force an agent is allowed to use in certain circumstances.
These do happen in law enforcement, be it by accident or pure negligence. That's an unfortunate reality.
I have not personally, but it was not uncommon to come across the remnants of drug violence. The cartels did battle each other frequently North of the border. We'd occasionally happen across a shot up vehicle, or blood trails, occasionally a dead body or two. The really brutal stuff was mainly down South (chopped up bodies etc.)
I'd suspect Phoenix and Tucson PD had more encountered with drug deal scenes - our area was more trafficking and very little to no dealing.
That is probably mostly done for the camera. If you're within a mile or two of the border, everyone (including the illegals) knows what's going on. Many times they see agents and sit down. They know the drill. If you're operating on a highway or in another area you will identify yourself. Tourists or travellers who are not used to the border area won't know who/what you are etc.
I do believe it is policy to identify yourself...but the uniforms and big vehicles with "BORDER PATROL" on them, kind of give it away. Now, having said that - there are groups of bandits (Mexican criminals who actually prey on other groups of Mexican illegals) who try to dress up as the Border Patrol (wearing similar outfits etc.). They will shout out Border Patrol as they encounter groups and then rob them.
In other sectors where there are towns and populations I am sure it's a vastly diffierent circumstance. In the middle of the desert you'll only find agents, illegals and cartel guys.
Inner City English TeacherAre you pressured by administrators to pass kids that aren't ready yet?
Tattoo ArtistIs it illegal to tattoo a client if he's drunk?
Stand-Up ComedianHow do you fend off hecklers?
I have no experience on the Northern border so I can't really answer this question. I also don't understand what you mean by "for CBP to hassle...". If by hassle you mean they inspect you etc. when you come across - that's simply normal. I can't speak for what your definition of hassle is. As a LEO, I have seen plenty of people who get outrageously upset when we're simply doing our job.
Speaking from a Southern border perspective, sure everyone who enters the U.S. legally through a POE is recorded in some fashion.
For the record USCIS no longer exists. The new layout is now DHS (Department of Homeland Security), subset CBP (Customs and Border Protection), and then USBP (United States Border Patrol). DHS also controls I.C.E., etc. The old USCIS under the Department of Justice is no more.
I am sorry I can't give you a better answer - I don't know what "hassles" you're going through or why. From a general perspective 9/11 and the huge illegal immigrant problem will undoubtedly put more restrictions, hassles, and policies through which will make it much more aggravating/difficult for people who are doing it right and legally. This is similar to many other things in law enforcement. The bad apples (criminals) ruin it for normal people on a daily basis.
There was a lot of tension between the local indian tribal police and ourselves. The Tohono O'Odham indian police were often very shady (and caught doing rather suspicious things). The entire reservation was corrupt/dirty so these police often had family members who were into illegal stuff as well.
You'd occasionally catch the police driving at night in the desert, lights out - well beyond their patrol areas. They'd invent some story about what they were doing etc. Likewise they would attempt to pull over BP vehicles when we were tailing suspicious vehicles etc. It was always an interesting time with them.
The only issues we had with local deputies or police was simply due to manpower. They'd get mad at us when we didn't have enough agents to respond to their immigration issues, and we'd get mad when they wouldn't come pick up warrants because we were too far away from them etc. It was never harsh, just frustrating from both ends.
Sheriff Joe (Maricopa County Sheriff) was always a cool cat. I actually liked that he openly berated DHS etc. for not doing our job better. He would bring news cameras etc. with him when he turned over tons of illegal immigrants to the local I.C.E. office who didn't want to process them etc. He really gets stuff done, and doesn't take nonsense from anyone.
There is so much criminal traffic out in AZ that all LEO's pretty much gel together when the proverbial feces hit the wind oscillator. You'd always stop to back up local PD, DPS guys, or Sheriff's Deputies etc. They would likewise stop and check on you.
I was involved in a 120-mile pursuit one time which involved: BP Agents from two stations, indian police, sheriff's deputies, sheriff's drug task force, DPS, and two local police departments. It got downright confusing, but we got the vehicle. In short, we never had the silly TV show drama.
Let me preface this answer by saying that I've never smoked marijuana. I had plenty of opportunities to in college, but I don't smoke and never felt the need to try it.
I do believe that it should be legalized though. It's a simple, non-deadly drug which is less harmful or dangerous than alcohol. Marijuana possession has stocked our prison system with millions of people who don't need to be there (though, due to being in prison - they often become criminals in the long run).
My opinion: legalize it, regulate it's production (so that it's safer) and tax the crap out of it.
I understand this would require a lot of new laws, and procedures. I do think you should get a DUI if you're caught out driving while high - because it does reduce your reaction time and motor skills enough to be a hazard. This is the hardest part about legalizing it.
The reality of legalization is that it likely won't happen. The U.S. government has invested so much time/money/effort in villainizing the drug that I doubt they could abruptly change their stance. That would require swallowing an awful lot of pride.
In addition to this, legalization of marijuana should not be pursued as an avenue to "shut down" the cartels. This won't happen. The cartel organizations are far too large to be destroyed by such a simple tactic. They would simply fight each other for the now-legal production of marijuana, and devote their manpower and expertise to other criminal enterprises or more of the serious drugs (cocaine, meth, etc.).
Also, if we legalized marijuana, and taxed it heavily - cartel provided marijuana might still be sought after because it would potentially be much cheaper.
I'm essentially all for legalizing it, but I don't imagine it will happen anytime soon on a federal level, and I do not see it as a cure-all for the cartel problems.
(max 20 characters - letters, numbers, and underscores only. Note that your username is private, and you have the option to choose an alias when asking questions or hosting a Q&A.)
(A valid e-mail address is required. Your e-mail will not be shared with anyone.)
(min 5 characters)
-OR-Register with Facebook
(Don't worry: you'll be able to choose an alias when asking questions or hosting a Q&A.)