July 16, 2019

DEFINING DEVIANCE DOWNWARD:

A Border Patrol Agent Reveals What It's Really Like to Guard Migrant Children: With the agency under fire for holding children in deplorable conditions and over racist and misogynistic Facebook posts, one agent speaks about what it's like to do his job. "Somewhere down the line people just accepted what's going on as normal." (Ginger Thompson July 16, 2019, Pro Publica)

It's rare to hear from Border Patrol agents, especially since the Trump administration has put them at the front lines of its sweeping immigration crackdown. Public access to them is typically controlled and choreographed. When approached off duty, agents say they risk their jobs if they speak about their work without permission. As a result, much about the country's largest federal law enforcement agency -- with some 20,000 agents policing the borders and ports -- remains shrouded in secrecy, even from congressional oversight, making it nearly impossible to hold it accountable.

Disturbing glimpses of some agents have recently begun to fill the void, including some that were published recently after ProPublica obtained screenshots from a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents that showed several agents and at least one supervisor had posted crude, racist and misogynistic comments about immigrants and Democratic members of Congress. The posts raised questions about whether the deplorable detention conditions on the border were out of the control of Customs and Border Protection, as the agency had asserted, or a reflection of its culture.

Other reports followed, including one from CNN that described agents attempting to humiliate a Honduran immigrant by trying to force him to be photographed holding a sign that read in Spanish, "I like men." The Intercept published more degrading posts from the secret Facebook group, and it reported that it appeared that Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost had once been a member. Provost has not commented.

But there was some nuance. An account of life inside a Border Patrol detention facility outside El Paso, Texas, by The New York Times and The El Paso Times, revealed that two agents there had expressed concerns about the conditions to their supervisors.

The agent who spent June in McAllen doesn't see his reality in any of those depictions. He's in his late 30s and is a husband and father who served overseas in the military before joining the Border Patrol. He asked not to be identified because he worried that his candor could cost him his job and thrust him and his family into the middle of the angry public debate over the Trump administration's border policies.

His comments come at a particularly fraught moment, as politicians on the left compare the Border Patrol's detention facilities to "concentration camps" and senior Trump administration officials, including most recently Vice President Mike Pence, dismiss descriptions of the inhumane conditions as "unsubstantiated."

When asked about Pence's comments, the agent said the damning descriptions of the facilities are "more substantiated than not." And, while he didn't embrace the term concentration camp, he didn't dispute it either. He searched out loud for a term that might be more accurate. Gulag felt too strong. Jail didn't feel strong enough.

He came around to this: "It's kind of like torture in the army. It starts out with just sleep deprivation, then the next guys come in and sleep deprivation is normal, so they ramp it up. Then the next guys ramp it up some more, and then the next guys, until you have full blown torture going on. That becomes the new normal."

Posted by at July 16, 2019 3:22 PM

  

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