“Trump’s Wall is a Scam,” says this former Border Patrol Agent

Published on Crooks & Liars on 3/3/2017.

Most Americans have no knowledge of what our southern border with Mexico looks like. They’ve never lived here nor have they visited. The majority of Americans, especially those who voted for Trump, have based their opinions in regards to border issues and immigration solely on the lies being fed to them by this administration. Trump’s border wall is simply a political ruse.

Jenn Budd-Senior Patrol Agent Campo Station, Intel Agent San Diego Sector

I personally worked on the border day and night for six years. After completing the Border Patrol academy, I was assigned in November of 1995 to Campo Station located in the mountains just east of San Diego. Upon first glance, I was shocked to discover that our station didn’t even have a building. We had one double wide trailer and one old garage with an asbestos ceiling that had been converted into a processing center. That meant it had a long table, six or so folding chairs and two jail cells that were nothing more than some chain link fencing with a lock on the door. Only the three supervisors and the Patrol Agent In Charge of the station had a computer. Agents either hand wrote the I-213’s that allowed us to immediately return the Mexican immigrants to Mexico, or we had to use a typewriter to fill out formal deportation and other criminal paperwork.

My field equipment consisted of an awesome pair of binoculars, one pair of handcuffs, a baton, a .357 revolver that carried six bullets, a radio that didn’t work most of the time because we were in the mountains and a lifted 4×4 Bronco. We worked alone, sometimes one agent for a good twenty or so square miles. Many nights we left the station on foot because we didn’t have enough gas to fill our trucks. We were used to being on foot anyhow as that is how we worked; sign cutting, tracking, footprints through the mountains until we caught whatever it was we were following. Sometimes it was drugs, sometimes a group of underage girls being smuggled for sex work or the occasional group from China or Peru. But most of the time, it was families coming here to look for work. Any work would do.

Today’s fence:

Campo did not have a fence when I started working there. We never had to sit for an entire shift and stare at that God awful obstruction like the agents in town had to. And for that, we were thankful. But it wasn’t very long before it made it’s way up to Tecate, CA which is where our western border with the next station started. It would take years to get through our entire assigned area, to our eastern border with Boulevard, CA.

East County San Diego Mountains I would climb every day. By Rsduhamel at English Wikipedia

In the beginning, it seemed like a logical concept. There’s a border here and the only thing designating it as such was four strings of barbed wire that ran the line through our whole territory. As a young agent, I was in favor of such a wall. I had yet to develop my liberal streak and distaste for the work I was doing. But I knew even then that the Army Corps of Engineers would not be able to build the metal wall completely across our area. Campo was known for it’s high mountain peaks and rocky terrain. Sometimes the border fell directly on a giant boulder, sometimes it traveled through a deep crevasse that traveled north and south and would carry water during heavy rains. There is even a railroad tunnel that travels north and south. The border is actually half way through the creepy tunnel. But at the very least, it seemed as though it would help us narrow down the spots were people could cross illegally. Back in the mid to late 90’s, they were crossing by the hundreds every night. Our border was porous then, and we simply had to do the best we could with what we had.

It was President Clinton that began hiring agents as fast as possible. He was also responsible for the fence being funded and built. This is the same fence you see now. And though it made life more difficult for the smugglers, it only slowed them down and made our lives more dangerous. It took them years to finish. It took smugglers only days to figure out how to get around it.

Sometimes they would cross right across the top of it assuming we would not be looking for foot sign there. Other times they’d cross the fence in the most predictable places; places that the fence couldn’t cross. Those groups tended to be used to draw us away from the other traffic that was crossing. It was a brilliant and easy plan: cross where the agents always look, tie us up on those groups and smuggle drugs in another area. By the time we would figure out the game, they’d moved on to another.

Often tunnels were dug to get under the fence. Some opened up into warehouses in San Diego. Some in Campo popped up in the farm or ranch houses that existed along the border. I’ve seen smugglers take blow torches to the fence and cut a huge hole in it. I’ve even witnessed a truck with a car carrier frame on it, pull up to the fence on the Mexican side, lower a ramp over to the U.S. side. Then a truck would just ride the car carrier up and over. This was generally done by the drug smugglers. The vehicle would then sped off through the winding border dirt roads. Rule of thumb was that once you discovered their tactic, you could bet that they’d been doing it a long time and that they would then move on to something else.

By Aykleinman – Own work (Original text: self-made), Public Domain

From an agent’s point of view, the worst part of the fence was that we could not see the other side. I’ve seen in other areas of the southern border where there is a more vertical fence style with thin gaps allowing agents to see to the south. In Campo, the fence was solid metal with no openings save the areas where the terrain dictated it. This was extremely dangerous. When people ask me what was the scariest, hair raising thing I did while I was in the Border Patrol, my answer is always working the fence.

We would have to drive the border road, along the fence, continually looking for crossings. If I was driving east, this meant my vehicle was right up against the fence and I was looking north along the road. Since we worked alone, I could not watch to see if someone was hanging over the top to throw rocks or shoot at me and look for foot traffic at the same time. If I was traveling west, I was facing the fence. Sign cutting from a vehicle required me to hang my head slightly out the open window, thus fully exposing me.

I was rocked numerous times. I had a small dog thrown at me. Another time it was a human head that hit the hood of my truck. I watched in shock as the spine that was still attached broke away from the head after landing. I was even shot at multiple times from the Mexican side. And no, we were not allowed to shoot back into Mexico.

That fence was a hazard to every agent and Trump’s wall will be worse.

Agents lives will unnecessarily be placed in danger. Smugglers will simply build a taller ladder, dig underneath it or cross where there is no wall because of the terrain. As soon as they finish one stretch and move on, it will be knocked down by the smugglers. You would have to have millions of Border Patrol agents to be able to keep a visual on the entire line. That’s how rough the terrain is. If Trump thinks he can build a wall through these tunnels and rivers, he is sorely mistaken. It is not possible without causing floods or blowing up boulders. That tunnel I mentioned would have to be torn down. Trump’s wall is simply not a realistic solution. It is merely a repeat of what has already been done.

Additionally, Trump lied in regards to how porous the border is now. Currently there is a loss of immigrants. There has been since the economy collapsed. Less jobs here and a better economy in Mexico allowed many immigrants to return home.

Trump has also refused to admit that the majority of immigrants are hard working, law abiding people. He has further told his supporters that undocumented workers are using the system when in fact many pay taxes through an IRS taxpayer ID system. This was set up so that they could pay taxes in the event an amnesty came around. If the government is willing to take their money, they should be willing to work with them on a more sympathetic level.

So why would he lie about the need for a wall?

Because the Trump wall is just another political ploy for votes. Anger gets people to vote, and he is a racist, xenophobe like many of his followers. Immigrant bashing is just another red meat issue for them to get worked up over and something they know very little about. This was a plan from day one, from the moment he announced his candidacy. It was classic authoritarian dogma: refer to undocumented Mexicans as rapists, drug dealers and murders, claim they are everywhere in the U.S. just waiting to assault you and your family, waiting to take your jobs, then your homes and anything else they can. Undocumented Mexican workers are his scapegoat. It only took a little ignorance on the part of most Americans who do not know any Mexican families, anything about the border nor a thing about immigration.

And for what it’s worth, I was never afraid of the Mexican immigrants I came across at three in the morning on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. I was afraid of that fence. And though I could not in good conscience continue with the Border Patrol, I do feel we need to protect the border. Just not in a Stalin-esque way. I also do not believe in labeling an entire race of people as criminals and deporting those who’ve been working here for years.

A real immigration plan would involve supporting the existing systems, amnesty and citizenship for those who have been working and living here and have no criminal histories, a worker visa program for businesses that need the labor and actual punishments for businesses that hire undocumented workers.

Another wall is just a political scam and waste of taxpayer money.

 

 

Trump’s plan to make private prisons rich using your tax dollars by jailing immigrants

Published on Crooks & Liars and Liberal Progressive Democrat News

https://www.lpd.news/2017/02/07/trumps-plan-to-make-private-prisons-rich-using-your-tax-dollars/  

While everyone’s justifiably been hemming and hawing over Trump’s latest executive order fiasco that bans Muslims from seven countries, I’ve been worried about two other orders that will affect our immigrant communities deeply. The basic purpose of these two orders, released just two days before the Muslim ban, is to end the practice often referred to as “catch and release” and to order the Department of Homeland Security to allocate all available resources to building and maintaining detention facilities for immigrants, documented or not. This is to be acheived by contracting with private prison corporations. These two orders are the real meat behind Trump’s immigration war, not the recent Muslim ban which was so poorly written and blatantly illegal that one has to assume it was released to draw attention away from the other two bans.

Now that I’ve got your attention, I want to explain what this means and how it will translate into actual policy in regards to immigration enforcement. But before I do that, I want to elaborate on why you should take my words as gospel on the subject of immigration. No I’m not an attorney, and I’ve been out of the immigration biz for some time, but I know immigration law backwards and forwards. And I can tell you what Trump, or better yet Bannon is up to.

I am a former Senior Patrol Agent for the U.S. Border Patrol. Unusual for a liberal I know. I don’t advertise this; my Twitter profile simply says I’m a former federal agent. It’s not out of shame. I am proud of my accomplishments. It’s out of not agreeing with our laws regarding immigration. I have no desire to argue with people who think they’re scholars of immigration just because they’ve shared a few memes on the subject. Nor do I want to get into a Twitter war with other immigration agents who may defend every policy regardless of how it effects people or how it punishes those simply looking for a job and in turn does nothing to the smugglers or employers who hire them. Yes, I’m a flaming liberal who believes in immigrant (documented or not) rights, but I also believe in protecting our borders. I just don’t agree with how we do it. It is a backwards, poorly designed system that punishes innocent, hard working people. Unfortunately, Trump is making it worse.

USBP graduation

I could write a book on my experiences in the USBP, and perhaps some day I will. But for now, I will just give you a brief background. I joined the BP after putting myself through college and earning a B.S. in Law, cum laude honors, from Auburn University. I worked at the infamous Campo station. I say infamous because we were known for our tracking skills; hiking sometimes for ten or more hours through rough brush and high mountains. I worked alone with a three hour wait for backup being the norm. My gear included a lifted 4×4 Bronco, a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver, a pair of handcuffs, an asp baton and a radio that seldom worked because of the terrain. I apprehended many drug smugglers, smugglers of young women for sex work and people from all over the world.

But those arrests were not the norm. Coming from my internship as a Mobile, Alabama District Attorney Investigator where I helped put murderers and rapists away, I found my job as a BP agent frustrating. Waiting hours for transport was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish, and I learned that contrary to popular belief, some of those I apprehended at 3 a.m. on the top of a mountain were quite educated, even more so than myself. Most though could not read or write, signing an X for their signature and using the Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo for their birthday because they did not know on what day they were born. I met Native Indians from Oaxaca and Tlaxcala, and people from a far south as Zacatecas and Quintana Roo.

My job did not harden me to their circumstances. The vast majority of arrests came from Mexico: grandma, mom and dad, kids and even some babies. I often stopped my truck at the convenience store in Tecate before returning them to their country so I could buy the mothers diapers and formula for their babies. I asked them to not cross in the dangerous mountains that took so many lives. In turn, they would sometimes ask to be let go, but I swore an oath that I would not violate.

Eventually, I became a Senior Agent working in prosecutions and a San Diego Sector Intelligence Agent. Both are positions held by few agents. Truth was that most agents had no idea how to complete the paperwork for a simple deportation. BP was and continues to be known for hiring the least educated and least experienced persons. They have reduced their standards in an effort to flood the border with agents and therefore, there is a high turn over rate and high level of corruption. Those that are professional, career oriented agents tend to leave for greener pastures.

Personally, I needed to get away from those that were not criminals and work on the smugglers themselves, the majority of whom were American. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the USBP had little interest in prosecutions. I was only allowed to go after the actual drivers and not the organizers. This I could have done at the station level. Even when I discovered that it was my former boss, the head of Campo Station who is now deceased, that was smuggling drugs through the East County, I was met with opposition. I had enough and left. Disgusted with the legal system and the federal government, I left the law field completely.

It is through being a prosecution and intel agent that I can speak to these executive orders. I don’t claim to represent the USBP, only myself and my own experiences.

The executive order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” orders the arrest of any immigrant, documented or not, that has either “been convicted of any criminal offense…, has been charged with any criminal offense…, who has committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense…” or “in the judgement of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”

Trump intends to basically deputize all police, local, state and federal as immigration officers. Notice how it says “any criminal offense.” For legal residents, known as LAPR’s or greencard holders, past law dictated the crime had to be a serious one such as murder, rape, drugs and crimes of moral turpitude. This executive order means they can now be deported for any criminal offense no matter how slight, and they don’t have to be convicted of said offense. In fact, there doesn’t even need to be an offense. The last quote allows immigration officers to arrest and deport solely based on their opinion. Therefore, due process is no longer a right of any immigrant.

The second executive order signed by Trump on January 25th was titled the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” This basically orders the Secretary of Homeland Security to allocate any and all funds to arresting, detaining and deporting immigrants. It also bans the “catch and release” or as it is referred to in immigration as “voluntary returns” or “VRs.” This concept has been used by the BP since before I entered in ’95. Basically, the idea was that with thousands of undocumented immigrants entering without inspection (8 USC 1325), there was no feasible way to detain them all and formally deport them. This VR was only used for Mexico and allowed the immigrants to sign away their right to a hearing via an I-213 form. They could then return to Mexico and try again within hours. The main point was that it was a benefit to the US government since they had neither the money nor the space to detain so many people. But now Trump is ordering that every person crossing the border without inspection will be formally deported, a civil offense. If they return, they will be charged with Re-Entry After Deportation (8 USC 1326) which is a criminal offense punishable by two to five years.

Of course this is actually about racism and money. Luckily for the private prison system, Trump has agreed to give them contracts again. The GEO Group, Inc. and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) maintain 85% of US prisons. The GEO Group alone gave the Trump campaign over $250,000, Mike Pence received at least $10,000 and countless other Republican leaders got thousands as well. In fact, both companies’ stock soared with the election of Trump. It is estimated that The GEO Group’s stock will climb by 25% this year.1

Additionally, CoreCivic spent over $1.6 million in 2016 to lobby Republican congress members in regards to using private prisons for immigration detention facilities. The GEO Group spent over $800,000 in 2016. They specifically lobbyied Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, to the tune of $120,000.2

Owners of The GEO Group and CoreCivic stock include The Vanguard Group, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup to name a few.3 I can only wonder who else in the Republican Party owns stock in these companies.

So what does all this mean? Trump/Bannon are making it difficult to be an immigrant in this country of immigrants. All immigrants, documented or not will be subject to deportation. They will be arrested and placed into private prisons run by The GEO Group or CoreCivic, awaiting their hearings, deported to their countries of origin. Others will be held for years simply for trying a second time to enter the US without inspection, a civil offense as I stated.

The GEO Group and CoreCivic will be paid millions if not billions of our tax dollars via the Trump Administration. Trump will insist he’s keeping America safe when in reality he is tearing families apart, destroying our economy that relies on immigrant workers and business owners and creating an endless supply of clientele for private prisons.

The administration has already begun advertising for new BP agents on television and radio. The media has not caught on and has no idea. Soon immigrants across the country will hear a forceful knock on their door.

I only have one question to ask you.

Are we going to let him get away with this?