While the issue of immigration reform continues to go unresolved, there are concerns related to Border Patrol and whether it is in need of further oversight. A recent story, posted on NPR.org, debates the topic.
In March of this year, legislation was introduced by U.S. Representatives Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and Steve Pearce (R-NM) that would require more accountability and monitoring for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Although they are members of different parties, they both come from Southwest states that border Mexico. They know first-hand how important it is to resolve any issues related to this agency.
Although they seek revised legislation, they understand the pressures these Border Patrol officers are facing. O'Rourke said that he believes the majority of agents and CBP officers are doing “what I think are among the toughest jobs in federal employment in very difficult circumstances, very difficult terrain, trying to remain vigilant against innumerable threats.”
During their time spent with NPR, O'Rourke and Pearce both told stories of Border Patrol misconduct and why additional oversight is needed. “We routinely get complaints of unprofessionalism or abuse as many people are crossing the ports of entry for legitimate reasons with legitimate travel documentation,” said O'Rourke. Take for instance, the case of an individual telling an agent that she would like to shop in El Paso. The agent will sometimes require the individual to show him how much money she has with her.
Another case of unprofessionalism arose when a New Mexico woman was strip-searched by agents as she was returning from Juarez, Mexico. Evidently, the agents suspected her of bringing drugs into the country. According to the woman's claims, she was forced to endure a six-hour body cavity search that involved “extensive frisking, an observed bowel movement, and X-rays, speculum and vaginal exams and a CT scan at University Medical Center.” At the end of all this, no drugs were ever found. However, the woman did receive a $5,000 bill for the tests.
Meanwhile, in the rural area of New Mexico, Pearce has been told stories by ranchers who have had Border Patrol agents allow cattle to get loose after failing to shut gates and agents hitting livestock with their vehicles (with ranchers receiving no compensation).
The legislation proposed by these two men involve reviewing current Border Patrol policies as well as its training programs. The U.S. is already spending “$18 billion a year to secure the border, which is more than twice what we were spending 10 years ago,” said O'Rourke. However, while the number of agents has increased, the training and monitoring of the agents have not expanded to fit this new Border Patrol make-up.
Before the agency basically doubled in size, there was a review done by the Government Accountability Office. The results of this audit found that the agency was exhibiting “attributes of an effective training program.” But that was 2007. With all the changes made since then, that review is most certainly out of date and out of touch with today's reality.