Prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center Towers and damaged the Pentagon, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) was formed as the Border Patrol’s parent organization and the combined agencies quintupled in size from 4,100 to 20,000 agents. CBP’s annual budget is larger than the Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI combined.
The CBP’s mission is still unchanged as it primarily protects the country’s border from people seeking to illegally enter. Although the CBP’s scope of operations have shifted somewhat as it has gradually gone from a police to a paramilitary stance with time.
And with that new stance, the agency’s overall reputation among the citizenry has begun to suffer. A public relations campaign has been launched by CBP to rebrand itself to the public as the border’s “largest humanitarian organization.” CBP has produced a number of live rescue videos and touted its elite Search and Rescue (“SAR”) unit in an effort to salvage its once sterling reputation.
One reason for CBP’s tarnished reputation is the staggering numbers of migrants dying while trying to enter the U.S. This is due, in part, to earlier participation by now President Joe Biden when he was the minority leader of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during and after President Clinton’s time in office. The Clinton administration adopted a program called “Prevention Through Deterrence,” the brainchild of the Pentagon, Border Patrol and Immigration and Naturalization Service.
This program was to implement a mega enforcement control infrastructure at crucial border centers. This was designed and intended to force most migrants into desolate dessert areas that were extremely dangerous to enter, thus placing intrepid migrants into “mortal danger” if they persisted in their efforts to cross over into the U.S.
The planners of that program failed to take into account the determination of people wanting to enter the United States. Migrants did indeed begin trying to enter the country, most making the arduous trek on foot, over brutally hot and very dangerous terrain.
The bodies of the least fortunate of these poor souls began to litter these arid, desert badlands in large numbers.
Prior to the Prevention Through Deterrence program during the 1990s, the Pima County, Arizona coroner’s office received a migrant’s body from the desert area once a month. Since that program began that number has risen to 18, or 150 yearly. It is believed there are more casualties never found, eventually listed as disappearances.
Thus the CBP’s SAR teams were born in 1998 as part of the Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue Team, or BORSTAR. By a seemingly self-asserted imposition of territorial imperative, CBP began dominating calls for emergency assistance related to distressed migrants in the desert border areas.
During the 21-year period from 1998 to 2019, CBP reports they recovered 8,000 deceased migrants from these areas. Investigative reporters claim CBP is vastly undercounting their recoveries by a factor of 10 or more.
According to the human rights organization No More Deaths (NMD), CBP is falling short of its vaunted SAR duties. A recent report by NMD titled “Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search and Rescue, and the Crisis of Disappearance,” there exists a “systematic negligence toward emergency reports of undocumented people in distress” that “constitutes a state crime of historic proportions.”
NMD insists that CBP is incapable of successfully performing a dual mission of border protection and SAR missions of the very migrants it is supposedly protecting the nation from when those migrants find themselves in distress. This is a classic example of conflicting interests.
NMD’s report reveals how CBP has managed to isolate all other humanitarian organizations from the SAR business while neglecting to perform SARs itself. CBP agents have told people seeking help the weather was “too hot” and they did not work within a distance too close to the border to activate a BORSTAR team. They have told callers their loved ones had been found and were safe when this was not true. In fact, NMD found that many of CBP’s BORSTAR searches lasted “less than a day, and in some cases, less than an hour.” Many migrant “rescues” are actually euphemisms for arrests.
For anyone who believes that newly elected President Joe Biden will affect any positive changes in CBP’s attitudes toward this situation, think again. It was Biden who contributed to this very situation in the 1990s while a senator. Since assuming office, Biden is allowing former President Trump’s “Title 42” Executive Order to remain in force. This policy allows for the rapid turnaround of migrants at the U.S. southern border, without the basic protections of due process. As far as the hapless U.S.-bound migrants are concerned, their plight is one of “Meet the new boss, he’s the same as the old boss.”
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