In the late 1990s, when I joined the Border Patrol as a trainee fresh out of the academy, I never imagined what would happen not only to my agency but also to the rest of customs and immigration enforcement after the 9/11 terror attacks.
The 9/11 terror attack led to the consolidation of 22 federal agencies into the Department of Homeland Security, including those that managed customs and immigration enforcement.
The mass murder of 3,000 Americans led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, which combined 22 federal agencies and became the nerve center of a new national security combine, and in turn completely altered how the federal government handles customs, immigration, naturalization, and just about everything else related to border control. Ever since, customs and immigration field workers have suffered through a series of shifting titles and responsibilities. It’s time to recognize that the new DHS is a bureaucratic disaster.
When I landed at my first duty station, I ran into Detention Enforcement Officers. I had never heard of them. They dressed in uniforms very similar to ours, but just enough to be different. They were, as a practical matter, jailers. They transported the illegal aliens to “camp”—our name for the detention facilities—and took care of them there. We worked well with the DEOs, who worked for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Unfortunately, some of our BP agents looked down on them disparagingly. Word had it that BP Agents who flunked out of the academy could become DEOs. Of the two DEOs who worked regularly at our station, one was said to have been hired directly. The other had been a successful student at the Border Patrol Academy, but dropped out because of a family issue. He happily accepted a job as a DEO.
But generally we got along with the DEOs. We caught and processed illegals, and they transported them to camp. We saw DEOs every day.
But then came the DHS. DEOs became Immigration Enforcement Agents, who essentially did the same job.
And that wasn’t the only change. Before DHS, DEOs, Border Patrol agents, immigration inspectors, and INS Special Agents, and their managing agencies, were under the Department of Justice. DHS absorbed them all, along with agencies under the Department of the Treasury: U.S. Coast Guard (which should, really, be a branch of the military), the U.S. Customs Service, and U.S. Secret Service.
Responsible for admitting and naturalizing aliens, INS became U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Immigration Special Agents and Customs Special Agents were blended into one agency: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). So now they became ICE agents.
But don’t confuse them with Immigration Enforcement Agents—the former DEOs. The government contracted with private security companies to replace them. If you go to a local immigration detention facility, you are likely to see men walking around in uniforms with “AGS” on them, Akima Global Services. Different contractors run things in different border sectors.
You can imagine the big money these contracts mean for the contractors. Consider the contractors’ electronic ankle-bracelet scam to monitor the whereabouts of illegal aliens released into the country. Millions and millions of dollars go to these companies. Obviously, they have a vested interest in keeping the flow of illegals coming. More illegals means more money!
As I wrote last week, the federal government spends far more on letting illegal aliens in than it ever did at keeping them out. Donald Trump’s border wall was labeled “too expensive” by the Treason Lobby’s gophers in the U.S. Senate and Congress.
.@POTUS’ attempt to bully taxpayers into funding his immoral & expensive border wall is completely unacceptable. https://t.co/NW2pHwjidX pic.twitter.com/AZCLKwfcjN— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 23, 2017
It would have paid for itself easily if it had worked.
Of course, a wall by itself doesn’t stop anyone. A wall needs personnel to make it work.
But I digress. With the creation of ICE, Immigration Enforcement Agents weren’t just replaced with private security. They were upgraded to Deportation Officers, now called Detention and Deportation Officers, although we still called them DOs. They went to county jails and prisons to pick up illegal aliens convicted of crimes involving “moral turpitude”—if you don’t know what turpitude means, apparently neither do our courts or anyone else—and deport them back to their home countries.
That is, when the home countries agreed to take back their criminals. As you can imagine, a lot of countries don’t want to take back rapists, robbers, and murderers. For that matter, many countries won’t take back drunk drivers. They want us to deal with their criminals, and their overpopulation.
With the former Deportation Officers under ICE management, the Border Patrol and legacy immigration and customs inspectors—who worked at ports of entry where foreigners show up to enter the country legally, or at least, to pretend to be legally eligible to enter—found themselves under the newly created U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
I’ve had to explain so many times to civilians that Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers are not the same. A friend of a friend told me his son was a Border Patrol Agent. I knew his son, but he was a CBP Officer. The father couldn’t understand the difference.
So the situation in the field deteriorated.
A story: Some Border Patrol Supervisors wanted to meet with Deportation Officers, who also supervise the detention facilities, to discuss some things related to detaining illegal aliens. The Border Patrol supervisors waited at the ICE office for an hour past the scheduled time, when a secretary informed them that the Deportation Officers did not have time to meet with them. A royal dis!
Former acting ICE director Tom Homan says that immigration and customs should never have been combined. His reasoning: When things got tough with immigration, the agency simply started prioritizing customs work.
ICE is now in charge of the Deportation Officers and in charge of the detention facilities.
For a time, ICE Special Agents tried to have themselves called HSI Special Agents to remove “immigration” from their job title altogether.
The average DO and the average Border Patrol Agent now never cross paths.
If the GOP/GAP ever takes back the White House—I personally doubt the prospects of the Stupid Party—the entire Department of Homeland Security must be restructured. Customs and immigration must be separated, and CBP, not ICE, should run the immigration detention facilities.
ICE should be more concerned with interior immigration enforcement than anything else. Combining Immigration Special Agents and Customs Special Agents just hasn’t worked. Legacy Customs Special Agents have won a battle to prioritize customs over immigration, because immigration is so political and they don’t want the heat.
That has to change—if America is to survive.
The author [Email him] is retired from the Border Patrol.