Skip to comments.Who They are, What They Do A Dilemma For Hispanic Agents
Posted on 03/22/2002 5:55:10 PM PST by Uncle Bill
Who They Are, What They Do A Dilemma For Hispanic Agents
The Arizona Republic
By Tessie Borden
May 15, 2000
DOUGLAS - For some U.S. Border Patrol agents, it's a source of pride. For others, it's an inside joke. And for still others, it's a dirty little secret.
That's the kind of tug-of-war that Hispanic agents, some of them naturalized U.S. citizens, face every day: a covert conflict between who they are and what they do.
About a third of the 8,300 Border Patrol agents on the force are of Hispanic origin. That's the highest percentage of any federal law-enforcement or civilian agency, said Rob Daniels, Border Patrol spokesman in Tucson.
''We're probably the only federal law-enforcement agency that requires Spanish instruction,'' Daniels said.
Some of the agents - the Border Patrol doesn't know how many - are born in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, the same countries that birth the thousands of people they are trying to keep from breaching U.S. borders.
How do they feel about doing what many of their countrymen would consider a betrayal? Torn.
Norma King, a 15-year veteran who works as a supervisor in the Douglas station, says she's proud of the job that has given her the means to rear three children, sometimes on her own.
''When I first joined, I did get a little bit of negative reaction'' from her family, King said. ''They were saying how could I do this, arrest my own people. The way I see it, I know how hard people have to work to better themselves.''
King was born in Mexicali, Baja California Norte, the daughter of a Mexican woman and a Native American mechanic welder. Children in her situation have technically dual citizenship until they reach age 18, when they must claim one country or the other. King naturalized when she was 16.
She said she doesn't know what put the Border Patrol in her mind as a career option. She was a divorced mother at the time, and it seemed like a secure, good-paying job. The issue of detaining her countrymen simply didn't figure into it.
Now it does, sometimes, but in the strangest ways.
She says those she detains sometimes try to give her a guilt trip when they hear her banter about Mexican elections. She tells them she's just trying to make a living, like them.
King said her family last year hosted a Mexican child as part of the Hands Across the Border program at her son's school. The child lived at King's Hereford home for three months.
One day, King said, she asked the boy how his parents felt about the Border Patrol.
''Ma'am, they don't like you,'' the boy replied.
King's husband, Bernard, joked with her, saying she shouldn't come home wearing her uniform because she would traumatize the boy.
Erik Moncayo, another supervisor at the Douglas station, also makes light of the situation.
Moncayo was born in El Paso, but some of his family still lives in Mexico.
''When I graduated, I was really worried,'' he said. ''On the one hand, I was really proud because I graduated, but on the other I was worried what they might think.''
Actually, they teased him. When Moncayo goes home for visits, his cousins sometimes run out the front and back doors when they see him coming, shouting, ''La migra, la migra!'' (''Immigration! Immigration!'')
But it's no laughing matter for some.
King said she recently was talking to another agent who was born in Guatemala. He took vacation to go home for a family reunion. On the first day after he returned, King said, they were chatting about the damage still evident in his home from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. She asked him if he tells his family about his work.
''He got very quiet and said, 'No, no,' '' King said. ''I thought it was kind of funny that he wouldn't tell them what he does.''
Reach the reporter at Tessie.Borden@ArizonaRepublic.com or (602) 444-4783.
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You see, the agents have known that we were under invasion by Mexico, and they have been sounding the clarion call for years to no avail. All they have gotten for their efforts to warn us, is the expected disdain from liberals and open border freaks, but now folks like you who just want to carp without offering any solutions. Get yourself to the border. and I don't mean at the traditional ports of entry. Get out to the desert and mountains and see these men sometimes on ATV's, or horseback; sometimes in SUV's or on foot in all kinds of weather track these smugglers and illegals. Then you can tell me what's so very wrong with these agents, and how well you think you're being served.
US Border Patrol agents know that their management is confused and working at cross purposes to enforcing immigration laws. They have been complaining and warning us about the Clinton/Reno corruption, executed by that Meissner woman. They have been demoralized beyond belief by the internal policies of INS that tie their hands in enforcement and don't provide them with adequate equipment or information about terrorists. Even now, the policy is to put the agents in their vehicles on "X's" (a stationery position under lights) for a 10 hour shift, making them a prime target without any defense. I have spoken to agents who have taken fire on more than one occasion.
The agents really thought that September 11th would finally give them a chance to do their job. They wanted to fight this war in the right way. I can't speak for all, but many of them wanted to seal the borders and would be happy for any help they could get. As the days passed, they realized that they had hoped in vain one more time. With this latest Bush amnesty fiasco, demoralized can't even began to describe the agents' mindset. They know beyond any doubt, that this means more illegals flooding the border. They are already reporting an increase in numbers. Many agents are leaving, and no matter how many new positions we create, they have and will go unfilled because no one is going to work at GS-9 or GS-11 pay simply to sit and watch the fence rot. Maybe you want to do that, Uncle Bill, since you know how to do their job so much better than they.
As an aside, many agents want to be split off from the documentation side of INS, and would prefer to be joined with Customs and the Coast Guard. So all you arm-chair quarterbacks who think you contribute by mockery and empty criticism, chew on this for awhile. ZZZIIIPPP, putting on my flameproof suit.
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