JACUMBA HOT SPRINGS, Calif.—Mike Syzdek joined the Border Patrol in 1976. He says he “always liked the idea of law enforcement” and wanted the job security the Border Patrol offered.  

At 57, after 31 years of serving at the Campo Border Patrol Station in San Diego County, Syzdek retired in 2007. He loved his job during those three decades, but today, he says he wonders what all his hard work was for.  

It was common for him to work an 11-hour day because his team was small, the former agent says, adding that he does not know how many graduations and family functions he missed, but those “sacrifices” were “all for nothing,” he told The Daily Signal during a recent ride-along through the area he used to patrol. 

“I think of all the agents, myself included, who were injured on the job and agents who were killed … only to find out that everything was for nothing,” Syzdek said.  

“Over the course of my 31 years in Border Patrol, I caught, you know, tens of thousands of aliens,” he said.

“I caught 20,000, let’s say, I kept them out of here. But they’ve let 10 million in … so, everything that I worked for my entire career was for nothing,” he added. “And the only thing I feel good about is the many, many drug loads I busted and people I sent to prison and got the drugs off the streets.”  

When he looks at the current situation at the southern border, Syzdek says, “it’s just heartbreaking that we have laws on the books and an agency to enforce the laws, and nobody’s doing it.” 

Illegal crossings into the U.S. along California’s border with Mexico are not new. Established smuggling routes, more desirable terrain, and Tijuana’s proximity to San Diego, one of nine sectors along the southern border, have long made the sector a desirable crossing location. Border walls and border security policies worked to drive illegal immigration numbers down significantly in the sector from 2010 to 2020.  

The Border Patrol encountered 53,282 illegal aliens between ports of entry in the San Diego Sector in fiscal year 2020, the last full year of President Donald Trump’s presidency. In fiscal year 2021, encounters in the San Diego Sector nearly tripled, rising to 142,459. 

Since Joe Biden became president, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has encountered more than 9 million illegal aliens on America’s borders and at ports of entry. That doesn’t include 1.7 million “known gotaways.” 

Syzdek says he and the men he served alongside “never imagined in our wildest imagination that our country, that we all worked so hard to defend for those many years that we were in, would have open borders.” 

On today’s edition of “The Daily Signal Podcast,” Virginia Allen and Simon Hankinson, senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center, discuss their recent trip to the southern border in San Diego County and what they learned from their ride-along with Syzdek. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

Listen to the podcast below: