Of late, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been getting a lot of negative attention in the media. The vast majority of it is completely unjustified. But whenever immigration tragedies happen – like the recent death of a mother and three children, in the desert near McAllen, Texas – the mainstream media delights in portraying CBP officers as heartless enforcers, indifferent to the plight of immigrants.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Most people don’t know it but the Border Patrol maintains an elite special unit dedicated entirely to finding and rescuing people in distress – including lost or injured migrants. It’s known as BORSTAR – that’s an acronym for Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue.
Membership in BORSTAR is open only to experienced Border Patrol Agents who undergo a rigorous selection course similar to those required for joining elite military units. Team members earn advanced emergency medicine qualifications and receive specialized training in high and low angle mountain rescue, water rescue, helicopter medical evacuation and other, related skills.
But BORSTAR is only one aspect of CBP’s rescue capability. The agency maintains a network of rescue beacons along the southern border that are regularly monitored by federal law enforcement officers. The CBP Air and Marine Operations Division regularly conducts airborne and waterborne patrols to locate stranded migrants. And in 2017 the Border Patrol launched a public information campaign called the “Border Safety Initiative,” which is aimed at, “warning migrants of the dangers of entering the country illegally.”
All CBP enforcement personnel receive first aid instruction as part of their basic training curriculum. And, according to the latest figures available, CBP personnel rescued 4,000 people in FY 2016 alone. And those figures don’t even include the situations where off-duty CBP officers render assistance when they come upon random crises, as happened when CBP Officer Daina Lambert aided the victims of roadway accident in 2018.
The United States has massive borders. And people seeking a better life in America will always be tempted to take unreasonable risks in order to cross our frontiers. However, the mainstream media, open-borders politicians and radical groups like the American Civil Liberties Union should stop blaming CBP for immigration tragedies. The truth is that there are thousands of migrants who are alive today only because dedicated men and women working for CBP put their own lives at risk to rescue them when they ran into trouble.
The dangers inherent in attempts to enter the U.S. unlawfully are an incident of geography. They have nothing to do with bad immigration policies or malevolent immigration enforcement personnel. But, sadly, even the unsung heroes of CBP can’t save everyone who makes a tragic misstep in the unforgiving borderlands – migrants attempting to jump the border are many, and CBP rescuers are comparatively few.