On Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver took a deep dive into the border patrol, and specifically the agents who guard our southern borders.
He found some troubling revelations.
With President Trump signing an executive order to hire 5,000 more agents to assist the 20,000 who already are on our borders, Oliver painted a cautionary tale in the hopes that the hiring process goes better than the last time.
Oliver explained that border patrol agents have a tough job. They have to be a humanitarian in some occassions and law enforcer in others. It’s a unique task that not everyone can pull off, and for many in the government, that’s obvious, because the last hiring surge for border agents led to some horrible hires.
In a post-9/11 move, President George W. Bush beefed up the border patrol from 10,000 agents to 20,000. And recruitment was very aggressive. Commercials promoted the job as you spending your days racing on ATVs, helicopters, or on horseback to apprehend drug runners and other nefarious people.
And though that can happen at times, often a border patrol agent is working alone surveying miles and miles of terrain. They sometimes don’t see a single person for days.
“Boredom is a significant part of life as a border patrol agent and they should probably train for it,” Oliver said. “For every hour they spend in target practice they should probably spend ten hours watching ‘Mozart in the Jungle.'”
- Reuters/Carlos Barria
That kind of job, combined with the fact that many who were hired during the surge were not fit for the job, led to some damaging repercussions.
Over the years, corruption and misconduct skyrocketed. At one point, the border patrol was averaging two alcohol-related arrests per week. Oliver pointed out one incident when two border patrol agents were put on leave for allegedly performing a sex act during a Cirque du Soleil show.
“Both denied that anything sexual was happening, and they were found not guilty of the sex act, presumably because they were at Cirque du Soleil where everything looks like a sex act,” Oliver said.
Since 2005, 77 agents have been arrested or indicted on charges of corruption.
One incredible example Oliver gave is a border patrol agent who was convicted of engaging in organized crime. It turns out he had a brother in the Gulf drug cartel in Mexico, and the evidence that linked him to the cartel was that a safe the agent owned contained $89,000 in cash, the agent’s commemorative border patrol badge, cocaine, methamphetamine, and a gun that said “Gulf cartel” on it.
This agent was hired during the last surge.
The irony of all this is that there may not be a need for more border patrol agents. In a report in July, the Inspector General of Homeland Security questioned if 5,000 more agents were required. And Oliver showed that the apprehensions of undocumented Mexican immigrants has dropped from 404,365 in 2010 to 192,969 in 2016.
“This is a story about the danger of not learning from your mistakes and for the sake of absolutely everybody – people on both sides of the border, and the good border patrol agents just trying to do a difficult job well – if we are going to hire all these new people, the very least we can do is be more careful this time around,” Oliver said.
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