Border Patrol proposes new job to feed, care for illegal immigrants
The Border Patrol says it’s looking to create a new job to take babysitting duties out of the hands of agents and give them over to support personnel, freeing the agents to get back on the front lines patrolling the border.
The agency says it’ll be 2020 before they are ready to ramp up, and they have no sense for how many people they’ll need, what the training will look like or whether they’ll be able to find enough applicants.
The outlines of the plan, announced by Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday, is the latest in a series of moves intended to try to find something that can change the dynamics of the ongoing border surge.
A CBP official who briefed reporters said the need was undeniable.
Thanks to overwhelming numbers of people, the demographics of the surge and new health checks put in place after sick illegal immigrants died in Border Patrol custody late last year, agents now spend 40 percent of their duty time off the border babysitting migrants. That includes transporting them, providing care and feeding, and taking some to the hospital for checkups. Since they are in Border Patrol custody, an agent must be with them.
“It’s bringing in individuals to take part of those administrative duties over, allowing the Border Patrol agent to get back in the field,” an official said.
Details, though, are very sketchy.
Officials said the job would be called Border Patrol Processing Coordinator, but couldn’t say whether they’re talking about a few positions or thousands of positions border-wide, nor could they say what the hiring process would look like or if it will require a polygraph test for hiring.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said there used to be a similar position back when the Border Patrol was part of the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service.
At the time it was called a detention officer, and those in the job wore a uniform but were not sworn law enforcement officers. He said he’s been pushing to re-create that role.
“This is a fantastic idea, this is something we have been pushing now for, heavens, six or seven years,” Mr. Judd said. “In typical government fashion, they wait until a Category 5 hurricane breaks out and we’re now behind the eight ball again.”
He said it would likely take 1,000 to 1,500 people to have enough personnel to relieve agents of those duties.
The agency already is struggling to keep agents on the job and is well below the number of agents mandated by Congress.
On the border, the dangers of having agents babysitting migrants rather than out patrolling the line have been brought into sharper focus in recent months.
Agents say they know they’re being sent to care for large groups of migrants, then smugglers use the distraction to send drugs over nearby.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan testified to Congress last week that hard drugs are increasingly being smuggled over between the ports of entry.
He recounted one seizure of 750 pounds of cocaine in southern Texas earlier this year.
“They felt confident enough to bring that many drugs across,” he said.
Mr. McAleenan said they only sniffed out the load because one agent, figuring the distractions were just too juicy for the smugglers, “laid in the brush for a week straight because he was worried about that stretch of border.”
“He knew that they were using families to divert resources. So, he laid in that stretch of brush and caught that load,” the acting secretary said. “I called him and talk to him about how dedicated he was, to sit there for a shift and a half seven days in a row before he finally got that load.”