Plunge in Border Crossings Leaves Agents Fighting Boredom

Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2011

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Wild foot chases and dust-swirling car pursuits may be the adrenaline-pumping stuff of recruitment efforts, but agents on the U.S.-Mexico border these days have to deal with a more mundane occupational reality: the boredom of guarding a frontier where illegal crossings have dipped to record low levels.

Porous corridors along the 2,000-mile border do remain, mostly in the Tucson area, requiring constant vigilance. But beefed-up enforcement and the job-killing effects of the great recession have combined to reduce the flood of immigrants in many former hot spots to a trickle.

Apprehensions along the Southwest border overall dropped more than two-thirds from 2000 to 2010, from 1.6 million to 448,000, and almost every region has lonely posts where agents sit for hours staring at the barrier, watching the “fence rust” as some put it.

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To stay alert, agents are encouraged to walk around or take coffee breaks. Some agents play video games on their mobile phones or read books. There are agents known as “felony sleepers” who intend to slumber–bringing pillows or parking in remote areas–but most dozers are victims of monotony who nod off despite their best efforts to stay awake.

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Perhaps no area has more action-starved agents than the Yuma sector, a vast expanse of desert and agricultural fields straddling California and Arizona that shares a 126-mile border with Mexico. In 2005, it was the border’s most trampled region, a place where immigrant rushes, called banzai runs, sent hundreds of people into backyards and lettuce fields, and teams of drug smugglers shot across the Colorado River atop sandbag bridges.

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Then double and triple fencing went up. Stadium lighting was installed. Every arrested immigrant, instead of being returned to Mexico, was jailed. Outside town, workers laid steel barriers on previously wide-open borders to block drug-smuggling vehicles from driving through.

From 2005 to 2010, apprehensions of immigrants dropped 95%, from 138,460 to 7,116. Vehicle drive-throughs fell from 2,700 to 21 during the same period. Farmers are now able to plant crops in once-trampled fields. And residents don’t find immigrants hiding under their cars anymore.

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Senior officials acknowledge that monotony is a concern. Agents are offered extra training and special details at tactical checkpoints and hot spots in other border regions, they say. Agents are also pulled off the line to do more interior enforcement, including pursuing illegal immigrants at bus stations as far away as Las Vegas.

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  • Anonymous

    An open borders rag like the Los Angeles Times printing a story like this? I’d be suspicious. Just because apprehensions are down doesn’t mean the illegal flow has slowed, it means the government is telling the Border Patrol not to arrest as many.

  • Seneca the Younger

    “Apprehensions along the Southwest border overall dropped more than two-thirds from 2000 to 2010, from 1.6 million to 448,000, and almost every region has lonely posts where agents sit for hours staring at the barrier, watching the “fence rust” as some put it.”

    Okay, you guys deserve break, we’re only getting half a million crossing now.

    And border crossings are not dropping significantly, they are just being reported less.

    Soon enough they will just call off all enforcement and this will be the easiest job in the govt. And that is saying a lot because there would be a lot of competition for that title.

  • True Blue

    April 19th article titled;”Arizona Sheriff Cites Flood of Border Agents Confirming Feds’ No-Apprehension Policy”

    That the LA(ughable) Times is printing their deliberate misinformation should come as no surprise to anybody. Pillows -indeed.

  • patthemick

    It’s a tough job hunting illegals but I appreciate the border guards doing all they can. That said when are they going to start rounding up the illegals that are already here? That should keep anyone from sleeping and be plenty of work.

  • Anonymous

    “Arizona Sheriff Cites Flood of Border Agents Confirming Feds’ No-Apprehension Policy”

    April 19, 2011 Amren

    “Apprehensions along the Southwest border overall dropped more than two-thirds from 2000 to 2010, from 1.6 million to 448,000, and almost every region has lonely posts where agents sit for hours staring at the barrier, watching the “fence rust” as some put it.”

    Yep, the Feds No-Apprehension Policy is working.

  • AlmostMusicPhD

    I’ll only consider the border fence to work, AFTER they dispossess the Hispanics from Mexico and points south, out of the Upper Midwest.

  • Anonymous

    I think of border security as being similar to UAV operations in SWA where you have to sanitize a whole lotta nothin’ (soda straw FLIR views of equally empty deserts) to get a contact. For hours on end.

    In the USAF UAV services, the stress/boredom that this creates is met by rotating people in and out of the GCS/MCS cab every 45 minutes or so.

    Given BP are federal and thus not constrained by State Lines, I would think they could use them in any of the Cali/Arizona/Texas border regions and even up in Eagle Pass or whatever that Texas border town is with all the kidnappings.

    Point Being: You network centralize (‘netcentric operations’) your surveillance so that you can afford to keep a high density of operators in rotation at one installation controlling a large number of monitoring points with limited overhead personnel (security, secretarial, maintenance etc. etc.).

    This then lets you put maximum manpower in the tooth instead of the tail end of the mission and so you can treat your BP capture teams as you would special forces who can shift from hot spot to hot spot, cued on and supported by Predators.

    It’s better to have people moving into and out of trouble areas as fresh faces and mindsets because they are less easily made and less easily fooled by habits or burn out.

    Once you have your spotters and your hitters sorted, you start to develop pattern lists of personalities in the game, their typical drug run times of the day/week/month and what that does to the local Coyote traffic. Are they taking men off the human smuggling links to bring the drugs across? Or are they upping the ante in the hopes of hiding a goat amongst the sheep? I guarantee that, whatever the public face, there is no real separation of powers here, especially now that some border areas are actually getting defensive improvements and it takes a fair bit of tech+finance to get anyone or anything across.

    The DTOs will support that. And they will get a big cut.

    But whatever, there _will be plottable coordinate clues you can use_, from historical data, to push your teams into place to make the contact happen, frequently. If that is the mission objective you are trying to accomplish.

  • Un Dolor en el Culo

    Hmmmm – I still say, anybody who goes to Mexico is nuts; the Mexicans may be staying home more than before, but the cartels are still out to kill Americans in any town, city or countryside in Mexico. I have a friend who’s spending this week in Cabo, and I told her she is stark raving mad. She doesn’t agree, and I hope she comes back alive. Even if the San Diego border is not overrun with illegals, I know it still is a very bad idea to go shopping in Tijuana like we used to be able to do. They’ll shoot you down right on the street in broad daylight and consider it a good day’s hunting.