By Jenn Budd
The United States Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), have long wanted to become a national police force. This week, they took a dangerous step closer to realizing that vision. As Acting Secretary of CBP Mark Morgan was tweeting about deploying these unaccountable agents across the country to clamp down on people protesting the killing of George Floyd, immigration agents were already deployed in the streets of Washington DC, San Diego and El Paso. This after a CBP predator drone flew over protester in Minneapolis last week.
After Trump threatened to illegally send the military into states to suppress protesters by invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act, large columns of border patrol agents marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, heading to the White House. Of all of the law enforcement agencies in the federal government, this is the most dangerous one to unleash on the country. The Border Patrol questionably asserts the power to stop anyone regardless of status, enter into private property, check proof of citizenship, and routinely execute searches without warrants as required by the Fourth Amendment. No other federal agency presumes to have these powers.
While Trump regularly attacks other law enforcement agencies like the FBI and our nation's intelligence community, he has nothing but praise for the Border Patrol, which was primed for the president and would do practically anything he says, including separating children from their families and violating domestic and international asylum laws. The Border Patrol has spent decades waiting quietly in the wings, stocking up on weapons and nearly tripling in size since 2001. Waiting for that moment when a president would see them for the heroes they believe themselves to be. Waiting for that moment when a president would fully activate these extraordinary powers to do his/her bidding.
That moment is here.
This was a plan designed and pushed by former Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar to inject CBP into every major national event. That’s exactly what the border patrol has been doing with the deployment of BORTAC — Border Patrol’s swat-like team — patrolling sanctuary cities and conducting swat-like raids on immigrant families across the country. Because the Border Patrol claims jurisdiction within 100 miles of all land and water borders, which includes over two-thirds of the population in the United States, everybody's safety is now at risk.
For decades, advocates, elected officials and the media have been warning the country about the extraordinary powers border agents claim to have and the abuses they commit. And now Trump is giving the Border Patrol even more power under the guise of the public health emergency. Even as he calls for states to open, he refuses to lift the national emergency so that he can continue to use border agents and further push his anti-immigration policies.
Remember, these are the agents who ripped crying children from their parents and neglected those children in their custody. Some of those kids died of dehydration and the flu. Their parents were put in indefinite detention, some never to see their kids again. These are the agents who get online and post pictures of dead children and make jokes; who are routinely arrested for smuggling drugs, murder, rape and more. These are the agents who have killed over 100 people since 2010 and not one of them held to account.
These are also the agents who in 2010 murdered a father of five children in San Diego named Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas. Much like the brutal murder of George Floyd, Anastacio was handcuffed, forced to lay face down on the concrete. Witnesses and video evidence showed that border agents kicked him, tased him, kneeled on his back and neck and beat him about his entire body with their batons. Current Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott was in charge of the investigation at the time and refused to cooperate and turn over evidence to investigating agencies.
This is the type of law enforcement border residents and migrants have endured for generations. This is what current Chief Scott is bringing to a town near you.
The Border Patrol is a brutal, unregulated, unaccountable, militant force. People have ignored the ill treatment and crimes against migrants since 1924 and never bothered to speak out because they incorrectly thought it did not affect them.
Now it will.
Jenn Budd is a former Senior Border Patrol Agent and Intelligence Agent with the U.S. Border Patrol. She is an ambassador for the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a project of Alliance San Diego.