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

Best Rated

On the reality show Border Wars, the BP agents shown almost always identify themselves when they come upon illegals, whether they are suspected of smuggling people or drugs. Is this really SOP or is it done just for the camera?

Asked by C L Smith about 4 years ago

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. 

Is there tension between you and local cops or other federal agencies about whose jurisdiction something is? Is it ever like on TV where some captain shows up and bellows "Alright this is MY investigation now, get all of these mall cops outta here!"

Asked by Toranna. about 4 years ago

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.

Are most illegals you intercept carrying guns? Have you ever been shot at? Do you have the right to use deadly force to shoot an unarmed illegal who is running away from you?

Asked by Leesy over 4 years ago

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. 

Oh, and did you see someone tried to blow up Sheriff Joe last week?? I'd imagine he has a lot of enemies by now!

Asked by brig4 about 4 years ago

We could do with a lot more Sheriff Joes in this world.  He is a dying breed.  For someone that people complain about a lot, he's been in office now for what 15-20 years and keeps getting re-elected?  He's doing his job (a difficult one at that).  The modern world seems to hate people with real work ethic or real opinions/values.

I applaud the guy.  He has way too many enemies...that, if anyting, proves he's doing a hell of a job.

Was it depressing that the border was such a revolving door? Did you feel like you were making a difference when a new crop of illegals would show up every day?

Asked by Isaac about 4 years ago

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".

Did you ever come across a scene like the one from No Country For Old Men where it was just total death and carnage after a drug deal gone bad?

Asked by zark about 4 years ago

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. 

I'm Canadian it's aggravating that I'M ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS WHO PLAYS BY THE RULES, and yet all that ensures is that I'm the easiest guy for CBP to hassle because there's a perfect record of all my activity. Is that unfairness understood at USCIS?

Asked by Blackhead1 about 4 years ago

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.