Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Agents detail 'daily' border fence battle, seek post-Obama 'restart'
In the tiny Arizona city of Douglas, a Border Patrol surveillance camera is trained on a 10-foot-high fence with Mexico. After a few seconds, footage shows a figure appearing out of nowhere and the fence suddenly opens to allow a pickup truck through. A car follows, and they speed off into adjoining neighborhoods while the makeshift gate slams shut. The Wild West still has a foothold here, more than 100 years after gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday called Douglas home. Only the outlaws are cartels and traffickers. And while President Trump is vowing to step up enforcement and seal off the southern border, agents in Border Patrol say they are still grappling with fallout from the Obama years – which they contend allowed security problems like this to fester. “We weren’t allowed to do our job,” Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the border agents’ union, told Fox News. Judd said the agency is now seeking a “restart” after years of neglect. In his last term, President Obama’s so-called ‘catch and release’ policies often allowed illegal immigrants to go free awaiting court dates, while most asylum seekers were accepted. The border itself continued to suffer as it has for years from gaps exploited by drug and human traffickers – like the breach seen in the exclusive November 2016 footage from Douglas, Ariz. That ‘gate’ was created by perpetrators on the Mexican side using a blowtorch to cut a metal panel and then affixing hinges and latches. Putty and paint are used to touch up the American side, making the gate almost indiscernible. Further, agents have grappled with a shift of resources from the field to the office. According to Judd, only 20 percent of the workforce was actually patrolling the border toward the end of the last administration due to extensive paperwork required to process asylum seekers and high attrition tied to low morale. “We just cannot continue with the same management that we’ve had, which created our problems,” Judd said. “We expect the president to drain the swamp – ours should be the first one drained. We have to hit the restart button.” Since taking office, Trump has ordered an end to “catch and release,” and the promise of reinforcements generally has boosted spirits inside the agency. But even as the new president moves to empower agents, it takes a year to hire and fully train personnel -- so a ramped-up border force is still in the distant future, Judd said. The Border Patrol currently has 19,700 agents, far below the allotted number of 21,370. Trump wants to hire another 5,000, which is what Judd said is needed...more