If the boat is leaking, does one figure out what to do with the new supply of water, or does one first stop the leak?
We will never know if the amiable fellow with a disarming smile would have reached us up here in North County. Or if he would have robbed, or beaten, or attempted to kill someone had he arrived.
But if his past record is any indication of future behavior, he likely would have been bad news. Luckily, we will never know because he was caught while trying to illegally re-enter the United States at the San Ysidro border crossing – after he had been expelled following the completion of a prison sentence in the U.S. for attempted murder of a police officer during a previous illegal visit to the U.S.A.. He was just one of the thousands caught at the U.S. border with Mexico every day, including that normal Saturday in August a few years ago.
I met our felonious visitor when I was on an eight hour “ride along” with the U.S. Border Patrol at the San Ysidro station. It was an amazing 8 hour education. And while I won’t claim expert border status as a result of this experience, I can tell you that their working conditions are harsh and the job is dangerous; but as a result of their efforts, we are all that much safer. We are the beneficiaries of professional Border Patrol Agents who are dedicated to protecting us and our nation’s borders.
“JJ”, “LB” and the rest of these unsung hero’s are out there each and every day and night with a single mission: track down and apprehend anyone attempting to breach our national border illegally. And out in the field it’s impossible to tell whether they’re about to apprehend a convicted felon, an honest worker looking to improve the lot of his family, or an armed terrorist. This is stressful, dusty, muddy work and these folks are doing an amazing job with the resources they have, but it’s obvious that they really do need more “boots on the ground”. And they need more and better equipment, too.
During my eight hour shift, just over 50% of those apprehended had criminal records. And of that 50 %, 2/3 had serious convictions like the attempted murderer mentioned earlier. This was just at one of the six border patrol stations located near the border in San Diego County and just one shift on a normal Saturday.
I was stunned by the criminal records of the illegal border-crossers. The officers were kind enough not to actually call me naïve, but they assured me it was about normal for that station.
Some in government have talked of declaring a “state of emergency” at the border. Use of the military, the National Guard, or even forming a new agency called the CA Border Police has been recently discussed. I say good. Let’s figure out a workable strategy and implement it.
From my perspective the border issue has got to be managed like a leaking boat. We cannot rationally figure out how to best deal with the extra water we’ve taken on until first we fix the leak. The Homeland Security implications of our porous border are so obvious it’s frustrating. Secure the border. Fix the leak. Then we can rationally figure out the rest.
A slightly modified version of this piece, written by me, was previously published in the Union Tribune. And although I’m unable to verify the exact date, I believe it was nearly 10 years ago. It’s amazing and depressing that it’s still relevant.
Current activity in the U.S. Senate and Congress appears to indicate they may actually address some of these issues. We’ll see.