Bradley Byrne: In border battle, agents face a ​growing crisis

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migrant caravan
Thousands of Honduran migrants rush across the border towards Mexico, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. [Photo Credit: AP Photo | Oliver de Ros]

Lately we’ve heard a non-stop narrative from the national news media and left-wing Democrats about the horrific conditions at our border.  The never-ending insults directed towards our border patrol agents and law enforcement has outraged many of us who appreciate their invaluable service to us.  Last week, I traveled to our southern border near El Paso, Texas to talk with them directly and get a firsthand look at the conditions they face.

Early Monday morning I arrived at a border location called Monument III on the Border of Sunland Mark, New Mexico and Cuidad Juarez, Mexico.  Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and military personnel offered me an intensive behind-the-scenes look at their operations.

A shift in migration patterns in the last five years has led to many more border crossings in numbers that overwhelm our personnel and infrastructure.  Just a few months ago, CBP agents had 2,000 illegal border crossings in downtown El Paso in a 24-hour period.

Most of these migrants, in a scheme that is rampant across our border, cross with their wrists out, waiting to be arrested so they can file an asylum claim.  After processing, migrants are released.  Few show up for court dates, and most asylum claims are rejected or found to be fraudulent.

Without question, most of these migrants experienced a long, arduous journey.  Border areas are owned by various cartels, and as one agent explained, “nobody gets here without paying something.”  Coyotes and cartels collaborate to extort migrants.  Horrific physical and sexual abuse is widespread.

The wall sections here have made patrolling the area easier.  At Monument III, the physical barriers were constructed in 2007 after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed on a bipartisan basis (back when most Democrats supported a wall).

Fortunately, the Department of Defense is currently providing camera surveillance so more CBP agents are freed to make arrests.  But personnel remain stretched thin.  Oftentimes a single agent must arrest and detain dozens of migrants alone.  I was told of three CBP agents making 400 apprehensions at one time.

My next stop was a tour of Bridge of the Americas (BOTA) Port of Entry (POE) with CBP OFO (Office of Field Opportunities).  BOTA is a cargo, pedestrian, and vehicular POE that sees an astounding 24,000 pedestrians and 30,000 vehicles daily.

CBP agents at BOTA told me they find a shocking amount of drugs including fentanyl, oxycodone, heroin, meth, and marijuana.  Due to the growing strain on resources, the National Guard has been here on a voluntary basis since October 2018 providing valuable clerical work and technology support.

From here we traveled to the El Paso Paso del Norte (PDN) Point of Entry, a pedestrian POE.  Recently most of the migrants here have been Mexican, coming to the United States for work.

But many have dangerous motives.  Just days before, agents found 14 pounds of cocaine packed in a vehicle’s quarter panels.  The increased traffic makes it extremely difficult to adequately screen all the crossers.  Sadly, this lack of resources was a constant theme during my visit.

Without exception, the border agents, law enforcement and military personnel along the border were transparent and professional.  The slanderous characterizations of these brave men and women from the Socialist Squad and their media allies is shameful.  We can be proud of the work our border agents do, but they made clear the scope of the crisis we face.  The numbers of people crossing our border are staggering.

We need additional resources, including technology, barriers and more border agents out on patrol.  And we must change our asylum laws to eliminate the loopholes fueling this migration boom.

Another critical agency is Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I’ll discuss my visit to an ICE detention center next week.