EL PASO, Texas — The Border Patrol numbers of federal agents has grown to about 11,000 since the year 2007, this number has tripled since the tragic events of 9/11 according to the agency’s website.
One of President George W. Bush’s final acts in office was to push the bill containing the budget request for the U.S. Border Patrol which totaled just fewer than $11 billion of tax payers money. With more funding, the U.S. borders have seen a sudden increase in the numbers of agents patroling high traffic areas. Just in The El Paso/Las Cruces area about 400 new agents were hired for the stations of the El Paso sector which are located in El Paso, Fabens, Fort Hancock, Ysleta, Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Deming, Las Cruces, Lordsburg, Truth or Consequences, and Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
Drug busts have yielded about 100 tons of illegal narcotics since this sudden increase in funding for the Border Patrol nationwide, with big contributions coming out of the El Paso sector.
“Total narcotic seizures decreased 12 percent. This includes a 44 percent decrease in cocaine seizures and a 33 percent decrease in marijuana seizures. The El Paso Sector also prosecuted a total of 8,144 individuals, which includes 3,120 felony and 5,024 misdemeanor cases. These numbers are up from 6,386 in the previous year”, states the Border Patrol website.
According to the BP website there has also been a 60 percent decrease in the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. from the local sectors. Along with that, the statistics show a 68 percent decrease in the number of immigrant deaths compared with last year. This means that the agents have saved more than 50 more people from the harsh elements or dangerous human smugglers.
While some may consider this increase in funding to be an overkill, some agents felt as if it is a good thing for the border communities.
Ex Border Patrol agent Rene Barrios is one of those people, “I think it’s a good thing, but it is not really the agents that are the main deterrent, it is actually the wall”. He also feels that the extra tax money is well spent because of the big drug trade from the south. “I think it is well spent because it keeps bad things like cocaine and heroin from coming over, but one of the goals that people forget about is that we were also there to prevent terrorists from coming over the borders and causing more American casualties”.
There is also a difference in activity when it comes to the certain sectors stresses the ex agent, “It all depends what sector you’re in but the Las Cruces sector saw a lot more activity from undocumented people but we were there for a very important reason. We are there to stop drugs from going farther north where there a smaller chance of them getting caught with big amounts of drugs. They aren’t looking for big shipments as much as we are here close to the border”.
Catching more drug smugglers is a positive aspect for the increase in agents but many people in El Paso feel that there is more of a chance for negative treatment among the detainees.
Concern from local El Pasoans about the treatment of the undocumented people that the agents detain is not uncommon. Sergio, who requested his last name to be kept anonymous, is the son of an undocumented man who has been detained on more than one occasion. “My dad would tell me stories of how the agents would sometimes be unfair to them because they were from Mexico. They would call them names like “tonks”, which is the sound they said the baton made when they hit them, my dad knew very little English so they would say mean things and he understood some of the phrases,” he said.
But Barrios disagrees with that particular view on the treatment of the detainees, “Hell no, when I was there we treated them with respect. If they did not cooperate, it’s like resisting an arrest, then of course we had to be a little meaner. But as long as they respected the agent they would respect them back. They are human beings too.”
“I really hope that the stories that my father told me are exaggerated but the more people you give power the more people that have a chance to abuse it. And it is especially worse because these people are just looking for a better life because of their hard lives. They don’t need any more bad treatment”, says Sergio.
Editor’s note: This story was previously published on The 3311 Journal.