Fixing the border

In regard to President Bush’s proposal for the Border Patrol, I think Bush might be missing the point. Bush wants to increase the number of officers, but it is the mission of the Border Patrol itself that needs the most tweaking. At a workshop I attended in El Paso on Border Economics and Migration, I had several encounters with Border Patrol and former officers. The issue seems to be contradictory missions: one night at a migrant halfway house, the Border Patrol stopped a teenage throwing out the trash and when he ran, he was shot (http://www.rtfcam.org/report/volume_23/No_1/article_4.htm). Just four days later, Border Patrol brought an illegal teenager to the halfway house, told the director that the catch-and-release cells were full and asked if the child stay at the halfway house. How can one agency be in charge of both apprehending illegal aliens and participating in their release into society? This divided approach takes its toll on the Border Patrol agents as well. Meeting with a former officers, we were told of overwork, stress, and depression. More than half of the officers I met were of Mexican decent. One freely admitted that his grandfather was an illegal immigrant and yet, his job is to arrest other men for doing exactly what his family had done. Fixing the complicated situation on the US-Mexican border is not a simple feat of adding more agents and building a wall.

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