Riding Shotgun with the Border Patrol

I took a trip to the San Diego Sector Border Patrol for a ride along at America’s Southern border. What I learned and saw is documented in this article.

Drug cartels and immigrant smugglers plague the southern border of the United States; but those who might plan or carry out terrorist attacks on the U.S. may also be infiltrating our country through our borders and our coastline as well. The U.S. Border Patrol has been stepping up their efforts to secure the border; however, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens still manage to slip through each year. 


Many new threats are appearing such as tunnels and maritime incursions. Even with added infrastructure, technology and personnel along the southern border, smugglers have found ways to continue their careers while successfully threatening our national security. Hundreds of patches where fencing has been cut through showed that even fences don’t stop border crossers anymore. 

In fiscal year 2009 the United States Border Patrol apprehended about 556,000 illegal aliens – roughly 1,500 a day. And those are only the one’s who were caught. “Official Border Patrol statistics are that 1 in 5 illegal aliens are apprehended and arrested,” according to GlobalSecurity.org. 

Of the nine sectors in the Southwestern U.S., the San Diego Sector Border Patrol had the second highest apprehensions of illegal border crossers in 2009, second only to the Tucson Sector in Arizona. San Diego used to be responsible for half of all the apprehensions in the U.S., which is now the case in the Tucson Sector.

“Our numbers have decreased dramatically. This year down 42 percent, whereas other areas have risen over the years and now Tucson Sector leads the nation in the number of apprehensions per year,” said Officer Michael Jimenez of the San Diego Border Patrol.

In fact, so far in fiscal year 2010, the numbers of those arrested in San Diego have fallen by about 54,000 illegal aliens. Still 64,500 have been apprehended this fiscal year, and there’s still another month to go. Tucson saw a drop of 38,000 apprehensions, but still had 203,000 arrests in fiscal year 2010 so far.


While numbers of apprehensions are dropping, other frightening threats have been appearing.  “We’re seeing now a spike in maritime incursions. As the smugglers find it more difficult to come in through the land borders they’re looking to other ways such as tunnels and especially maritime incursions,” said Jimenez. Numbers of boats carrying illegal aliens more than doubled from 2009 to 2010 in the San Diego Sector. There were only 49 boats carrying illegal aliens discovered in 2009, but this year 101 have already been discovered. 

Jimenez identified tunnels as another major threat to securing our southern border. Before 9/11, Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector had found a total of two tunnels; but after 2001 that number spiked, reaching 38 total tunnels to date. The San Diego Sector found five tunnels this year, as opposed to the four discovered in 2009. Tucson saw a major decrease from the 20 tunnels discovered in 2009 to just 6 so far in 2010.  However, tunnels are being seen more regularly in the Tucson Sector due to the drainage systems set up in Nogales, according to Officer David Jimarez of the Tucson Sector Border Patrol. 

Numbers on the rise in the Tucson Sector include OTM numbers, which stands for “other than Mexicans.” The amount of illegal immigrants apprehended from countries other than Mexico rose from 11,600 in 2009 to 14,850 in 2010 in the Tucson Sector. In the U.S. last year, close to 15,000 OTM’s were apprehended. Of those arrests, 2,960 illegal aliens were identified as being from special interest countries and countries that sponsor terrorism. Special interest countries recognized by Border Patrol included Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia; Countries recognized as sponsors of terrorism included Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba. The biggest concern with rising OTM numbers is the threat of terrorists coming into America.


While some of these illegal aliens from the countries named above may just be job seekers, there is really no way to tell. It is almost insulting to our military to leave the borders partially unsecured while fighting terrorism abroad. We cannot afford to risk letting even one terrorist into this country undetected. It would not be worth the lives lost in his/her terror scheme. 


The San Diego Sector Border Patrol changed its mission from preventing entry “of illegal aliens, smugglers, narcotics and other contraband into the U.S.” to protecting America and preventing “terrorist and terrorist weapons from entering the U.S.” after September 11, 2001.

“I wouldn’t say that every person that we bring in is just a family member or someone looking to have a better life. You do have some people who are career criminals and of course they’re not going to tell you that when you arrest them,” said Jimenez.

Many of these career criminals are involved in smuggling organizations, have committed serious crimes such as rape or murder and some belong to drug cartels. The Tucson Sector seized 1.2 million pounds of marijuana last year. “That’s the most marijuana that’s ever been seized by any one sector before. It actually correlates; less apprehensions, more marijuana because our agents can actually go ahead and seize that,” said Jimarez. Border Patrol shouldn’t have to decide between these crimes. There needs to be enough enforcement for both issues. 



The one thing that the Border Patrol from each sector repeated was, “You don’t know whom you’re dealing with until you bring them in and identify them.” That is the most frightening issue. If the person apprehended is a terrorist, murderer, weapon or drug smuggler it will remain unknown until we identify that person through Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Even if they are apprehended and identified, only their criminal history in America is available; serious crimes committed in other countries would not be detected by ICE.

When the government approaches the topic of amnesty for illegal aliens, it is a scary and offensive claim. Those we may be giving amnesty to could be career criminals who take advantage of our government programs, or belong to terrorist organizations planning attacks on American citizens. It is offensive to everyone working to keep America safe, especially our Border Patrol officers who risk their lives everyday to keep criminals out of our country and away from America’s children. 

This issue has become highly politicized lately. “There’s a huge enthusiasm gap for Democrats because Obama came into office promising “comprehensive immigration reform” which of course is Democrat code speak for “mass amnesty” and it hasn’t happened yet,” said Chuck DeVore, assemblyman for California’s 70th district. As congress faces a vote this November that could result in a complete makeover, Democrats have tried to push for immigration reform in hopes that it will mean more votes for them. Luckily Harry Reid’s latest attempt to pass the “Dream Act” failed to receive the 60 votes necessary in the Senate, but the vote was too close for comfort with 56 votes in favor of the bill. 



“The remaining danger window will be in the lame duck session of Congress after the November election,” DeVore said. Politicians have become more concerned with reelection than with doing what’s right for America. Amnesty is not only insulting, but it is not right for America. We need to deal with the borders and we need to do it now before we have any more casualties as a result of Mexico’s criminals. 


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