Border Patrol: Paper Tiger at a Collapsing Frontier

Up to half of Border Patrol personnel in Texas has been pulled from the field, with a record low 12 officers attempting to cover a busy 245-mile stretch of the Rio Grande. As more agents are assigned to deskwork, “morale is in the toilet,” says the Border Patrol’s union.

“If our job is to be out patrolling the border in between the ports of entry and actively searching for people who have crossed illegally, but we’re not allowed to go do that job, it basically creates this defeated feeling in everyone,” said Jon Anfinsen, president of the National Border Patrol Council local in Del Rio.

Speaking of defeatism, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas privately admitted that the situation is “unsustainable.” In a leaked audio, Mayorkas sounded like an incompetent general plotting retreat: “If our borders are the first line of defense, we’re going to lose.”

Mayorkas’s holistic argument that migration begins far from the southern border is valid, as far as it goes. But his palaver about “push” factors rings hollow as long as his department fails to deport illegal border crossers and attempts to dismantle effective policies like the Remain in Mexico program. Contrary to the secretary’s claims, America’s southern border is open.

An observer with the Center for Immigration Studies recently drove through the sprawling Del Rio sector and saw a grand total of one Border Patrol vehicle on the road. But he did find more than a dozen units parked at the agency’s headquarters in Brackettville.

How does this square with robust official tallies of border “encounters”? Answer: Migrants no longer run from Border Patrol officers. Families, unaccompanied minors and even single adults simply line up to turn themselves in en masse. Some trudge miles to find an agent to “process” them.

DHS’s fuzzy encounter category makes it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between expulsions and releases. But the docility/brazenness of illegal border crossers in and around Del Rio indicates that “processing” means sending them on their way. In other words: catch and release.

Next door in Eagle Pass, Texas state law enforcement officers, who have no authority to turn back border crossers, keep watch along the river without any Border Patrol presence. A federal agent said that except for transporting illegal aliens, all Border Patrol personnel were reassigned to migrant processing, with no actual field duties.

In a pep talk to beleaguered Border Patrol officers last week, Mayorkas declared, “The extent of the challenge should not be understated, but nor should our ability to meet it.” But glib remarks are no substitute for a serious and properly deployed enforcement program. This administration’s designed collapse in South Texas is a real morale killer for conscientious Border Patrol personnel chaffing to do what used to be their job.

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