In the 2016 election season, then-candidate Donald J. Trump placed a heavy emphasis on illegal immigration. Since taking office, President Trump has enacted a ban with a zero-tolerance policy on asylum seekers who travel through multiple countries in order to get to the United States. This has stirred controversy among many Americans, as reported by the Center for Migration Studies.
Those that took issue with President Trump’s immigration policies zeroed in on the enforcers of these policies: Customs and Border Protection agents. According to an article by the New York Times, one Border Patrol agent recounted his experience of being called a “sellout” and a “kid killer.” More than half of US adults already disapprove of the president’s immigration policies, as recorded in a poll by PBS NewsHour. The polarity of the issue has only fueled the negative feelings toward agents of the Border Patrol.
Though these agents enforce some aggressive immigration policies, I strongly believe that Border Patrol agents should be viewed in a more positive light by both the American public and politicians. Just like every other American, Border Patrol agents are simply trying to make a living. Their job is to enforce the immigration laws of the United States, whether they agree or disagree with every policy that is set out by the Trump administration.
My passion for this subject is fueled by my experience on a service/immersion trip to the US-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora in Mexico. On this trip, our group worked with the Kino Border Initiative to provide humanitarian assistance and accompaniment to recently deported migrants. While most of our trip consisted of this work, we also visited a Border Patrol facility in Nogales to speak with Border Patrol agents.
I can confidently say that many migrants are genuinely looking for a place that they can call home; some migrants flee violence in Central American countries, and others want to visit their families in the United States. Though I empathize with recently deported migrants and their complex situations, I also support the agents who enforce the immigration laws of our nation that are in place to keep our country safe and secure.
In my visit to the Border Patrol facility, I sat through a presentation by an agent and even toured the facility. Unsurprisingly, the Border Patrol agents that I spoke with displayed no contempt for migrants. They explained to us that their work on the border prevents thousands of pounds of drugs from entering America each year, including cocaine and heroin, statistics about which can also be found on the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website. The agents apprehend hundreds of gang members annually, keeping our nation’s border safe. These are exemplary aspects of the work of Border Patrol that often go unnoticed.
But just like in every profession in America, there will be a handful of reprehensible people. Videos have surfaced on YouTube with Border Patrol agents pouring out water from jugs that were left for migrants in sections of the desert. This action is unacceptable from an agency that is meant to protect people. During my trip to the border, we walked through a portion of the desert that is frequented by migrants who are attempting to cross the border illegally. These migrants face numerous threats while walking in the desert, including flash flooding, dehydration and dangerous creatures. Many migrants are found dead in this section of the desert, which adds to the intensity of the agents’ actions. Though these actions were morally reprehensible, I do not think that they represent the motivations of the Trump administration’s policies or the Border Patrol agents. Many of these videos that were released by the Border Patrol in 2017 actually include videos from 2011 and 2013 during former President Barack Obama’s term, as confirmed by PolitiFact.
Many Americans are not only opposed to the work of Border Patrol, but also neglect the fact that many migrants flee real violence and persecution, as stated in an NPR/Ipsos poll. Therefore, the American public should take more time evaluating the immigration issue before stating such opinions. The issue is far more complex than it’s made out to be by the media and politicians. My trip to the border shaped my views of both groups because they were no longer pawns in a twisted game of politics; they were powerfully humanized to me.