The Indefensible Job of Policing the Border

Against the Wall , a former border officer’s memoir, argues that when it comes to protecting the border, cruelty is the point. A US border patrol agent on patrol near La Joya, Tex., 2013. In the summer of 2021, I sat in on a presentation given by two members of the US Border Patrol’s Missing Migrants Program—a small initiative of the agency to devote resources to identifying the recovered remains of deceased migrants—to a group of college students on a trip to learn more about the US-Mexico border. Books in review Against the Wall: My Journey from Border Patrol Agent to Immigrant Rights Activist by Jen Budd Buy this book The presentation took place at the South Texas Human Rights Center in Falfurrias, a town of 5,000 long considered the epicenter of migrant death in the state, despite being 75 miles north of the border. The reason for the deaths is that the town is the site of a major Border Patrol checkpoint that migrants must circumvent on foot; many lose their lives in the hot, immense shrubland of the local ranches. The agents, one male and one female, explained that their office aimed to identify the remains using the FBI’s DNA database and by rehydrating the fingers of deceased migrants in order to take prints. This effort, they stressed, was tied to both humanitarian responsibility and a need for border enforcement. “No one deserves to die in this manner,” one agent said. “For whatever reason they’re coming to this country illegally, their families deserve closure.” After the agents’ presentation, one student asked whether racism was a problem within the office’s ranks. The female agent replied that because more than half the agents were Latino, like most migrants, there was no issue with racism. She shared that she herself […]

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By Donato