A Border Patrol Agent Shares What It’s Really Like at the Border
Rachel del Guidice /
“What was pretty amazing to me … is just how bold these individuals are when they’re crossing the border, giving themselves up knowing that they’re going to get released and they’re going to get released into the United States and that they’re going to be able to disappear into the shadows of society,” says Brandon Judd, a Border Patrol agent and president of the National Border Patrol Council. Read his full interview, posted below, or listen on the podcast:
We also cover these stories:
- President Donald Trump is launching new sanctions against Iran.
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Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined on The Daily Signal podcast today by Brandon Judd. He’s the president of the National Border Patrol Council. Brandon, thank you so much for being with us today.
Brandon Judd: I appreciate you having me.
del Guidice: Well, thank you again. First off, can you give us a glimpse into what you as well as what the National Border Patrol Council does?
Judd: Yeah. … All law enforcement has associations that look out for the interest of the law enforcement agent. The National Border Patrol Council is exactly like that.
We’re the union who looks out for the interest of the agents, looks out for what needs to happen as far as border security goes from an agent standpoint.
We are then able to go back and explain to congressmen, explain to the legislative branch, to the judicial branch, and the executive branch of government what our agents are seeing and what needs to happen in order for the border to get secured.
So what we do is we represent the interest of the agents in border security and in any other matter that they would like us to represent them.
del Guidice: I actually got to see that firsthand when, in April, I was down at the border with you and some other agents and some other lawmakers.
That was a very eye-opening visit and I kind of got to experience what you guys do for the rest of the country firsthand.
After I met you at the border in April, you ended up voluntarily deploying to the Rio Grande Valley to patrol the border there. What was that experience like?
Judd: Not only am I the president of the National Border Patrol Council, but I’m a Border Patrol agent as well. I wear two hats.
I wear a uniform and I go out and I patrol the border on a regular basis. Then I also wear the political hat where I look out for the interest of the agents.
When I went down to the border, I went down there so that I could have a firsthand experience in exactly what our agents are dealing with in that particular area.
My area of expertise has been out of California and Arizona. That’s where I have spent the majority of my career patrolling the border. So I have a very good understanding of what’s going on in those locations.
I needed to get firsthand knowledge of what was happening in the epicenter right now of where illegal immigration is taking place, and that’s in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. So I went down there and I saw, again, firsthand exactly what was going on.
What was pretty amazing to me, and you saw this yourself when you were out in Yuma, … is just how bold these individuals are when they’re crossing the border, giving themselves up knowing that they’re going to get released and they’re going to get released into the United States and that they’re going to be able to disappear into the shadows of society.
In interviewing these individuals and talking to them, and they knew exactly what the process was going to be, this is what we call the catch-and-release magnet. I got to hear it from these individuals that were crossing the border illegally.
The catch-and-release magnet is what is drawing these people to our country, inviting them to violate our laws, because they know that they’re actually going to be rewarded instead of a consequence being applied.
We saw that as acting [Homeland Security] Secretary [Kevin] McAleenan testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
He testified that 90% of the people that claim asylum and that are subsequently released from our custody never show up to their court appearances.
So they’re deported in absentia, but because it’s in absentia, they’re not there and so they’re not actually removed from the country. They remain in the United States.
That’s a problem and that’s that catch-and-release magnet that we see.
I wanted to personally see it firsthand so I could hear from the individuals that this is exactly what they were intending, that those people that cross the border, they were intending to come here to game the system and use the asylum loopholes. That’s exactly what I saw.
del Guidice: You mentioned … I think you said 90% of people that cross the border don’t end up showing up for their court date. What percentage of illegal immigrants coming across would you say actually end up being detained?
Judd: Very few. The ones that we’ll actually detain pending their asylum or deportation proceedings, it’s normally going to be single adults. If they have children in their custody, they’re going to be released.
That’s because there’s a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case that says we can only hold children in our custody for 20 days. If we don’t separate families, then we have to release the parents with the children as well within 20 days.
So they all know this and that’s why the vast majority of these people that are crossing the border illegally are bringing children with them. It’s because they know that they will ultimately be released.
Now, again, it’s interesting to know for your listeners that we do not have to release people except for minors.
By the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case, we must release minors within 20 days of apprehending them, but anybody else we can hold in custody pending their deportation or asylum proceedings.
But they know that as long as they have children, they’ll be released or if they flood the system and we don’t have the bed space to hold them in custody, then we ultimately release them as well. That’s what’s happening.
So the vast majority of people that cross the border illegally are ultimately going to be released and then they’re just not going to show up to their court appearances and they’ll just be in the United States for the rest of their life.
del Guidice: Have you seen situations where you’re concerned that minors are being brought in by people who aren’t their parents but might be claiming to be or appearing to be?
Judd: Yeah, we’ve known that that’s been happening going all the way back to 2014.
We’ve known that it was happening, but … we weren’t able to prove it because we weren’t deploying the technology that was necessary, the DNA technology that was necessary, to show us that these people weren’t the parents.
Without that technology, we had to take their word for it. But we have since deployed technology to certain areas on the border and it’s called rapid DNA testing.
We’re finding that an awful lot of people that are crossing the border with children, those children that they claim are their children aren’t actually their children, and so we’re able to separate them and we’re able to prosecute them for an additional crime beyond crossing the border.
But … We don’t have the resources to test every single person that crosses the border with a child.
del Guidice: I do want to ask you too about the lack of resources that you all are facing. I know that the number of people coming over the border right now is at record levels.
How are Border Patrol agents coping with these record levels of immigrants coming over but not having adequate resources to handle that?
Judd: First off, we’re not coping well, but your listeners have to understand why it is that we’re dealing with record numbers of people.
You’re going to hear the mainstream media that are going to say, “Well, the Border Patrol has arrested more people in the past,” and that’s not true.
The Border Patrol has made more arrests in the past, but we haven’t arrested more people. Let me give you an example and let me explain that.
In 2002, when I was down on the border … I arrested the same group of people in the same skiff three times. It was a group of seven individuals. They crossed the border in the same skiff three times.
I arrested them, I took them to the station, I fingerprinted them, they didn’t have any criminal history, and so I returned them to Mexico. They were from Mexico.
Within an hour, they crossed the border again in the same location. I arrested them again, took them to the station.
This circle, this circular process, it took about three hours. So I was able to arrest the same people in one shift three times. Although it was seven people, it counted as 21 arrests.
So when the mainstream media says that we … arrested more people in the early 2000s, they’re misrepresenting what that means. We made more arrests, but we were arresting the same people over and over again.
Right now, we’re not arresting the same people over and over again because we’re not dealing with people from Mexico. We’re dealing with people from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba. We’re even starting to deal with people from Africa.
We cannot return these people the same way we did with people from Mexico. So what happens? We hold them in our custody, we end up releasing them.
That pressure and that stress is being put on the limited resources that we have.
It’s horrendous. It’s horrendous working conditions for the Border Patrol agents. And, frankly, morale is taking a huge hit, which is one of the reasons why we have one of the highest attrition rates in the entire federal government.
You just can’t have that. You can’t have law enforcement agents or officers quitting their jobs because their morale is so low, but that is in fact what’s happening today.
del Guidice: Yeah. What would you say are the top three things that Border Patrol agents think would help them do their job?
Judd: You have to have the support of Congress.
When you have people like [Rep. Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez that are comparing us to the Nazis—she’s saying that the detention facilities that we hold people in are like concentration camps, which then of course compares us to the Nazis—any time that you do that, the signal that is sent is that Congress, who is supposed to provide us with the resources that are necessary, they don’t believe in our mission, they don’t believe in our job. …
So No. 1, we have to have Congress behind our back. We have to have a Congress that is supporting us and right now, we’re just not seeing that support. Again, I use that Ocasio-Cortez quote as an example.
The other thing is we have to have good leadership.
We have to have leadership that is innovative. We have to have leadership that can recognize as new problems occur. But, unfortunately, we’re a very reactionary organization and we react very slowly to new trends that are taking place.
The other thing that we have to have is we have to have the resources that are necessary to put more agents in the field so that we can secure the border.
If we had those three things … I know we could secure the border once and for all and we wouldn’t have to continue discussing this issue.
del Guidice: Yeah. You mentioned those three things. What is your perspective on all of the talk with the wall? President Trump has talked about it.
Do you think a wall would help or it wouldn’t make much of a difference? Where do you fall on that side of the debate?
Judd: Walls, physical borders, let’s just call them physical borders, physical barriers. … Physical barriers are very effective in allowing us to dictate where illegal border crossings take place.
Unless you have a full 2,000 miles of continuous physical barriers, there’s going to be places that people are going to be able to enter the country illegally.
But if we can dictate where those locations are, it allows us to be a lot more effective in seizing the drugs that are coming across the border illegally and apprehending the criminal element that is coming across the border, the criminal aliens who are coming across the border.
That’s where the physical barriers are very effective.
If the asylum loopholes continue, then those individuals that have criminal records in the United States, they’re going to continue to be released. But if we have the physical barriers, we will be able to stop the narcotic and we will be able to stop the criminal aliens that are entering our country illegally.
del Guidice: You mentioned the asylum loophole. What are some of the other loopholes that you see currently in the law that need to be changed?
Judd: The asylum and deportation loopholes are the main loopholes that affect the way we do our job and allows the catch-and-release program to continue.
If we cannot deport people in a timely manner, then we have to hold them for up to nine months, a year until all of their appeals processes play out.
I’m all for appeals processes. I believe in the due process of all individuals, which is why we have our laws in the first place, which is why our country is just such a country because of that due process. But we have to be able to put them through that process much quicker than what we’re currently doing.
Those are the loopholes that they’re exploiting. They know that if they overwhelm the system, if we don’t have the judges in place, if we don’t have the facilities to hold these individuals, all they have to do is come across in mass and they will then get released into the interior of the United States, and those are the loopholes that have to get closed.
del Guidice: Can you talk a little bit for a second about the credible fear interviews? You talked about this during our time at the border back in April.
I believe it was you or another agent were saying how it’s important to conduct these interviews.
I don’t know if it’s been common practice to or you were hoping that it becomes that, but to ask these people who are crossing illegally and claiming asylum to determine whether or not they do have a credible fear of returning to their country.
Judd: The credible fear interviews, the reason why they’re so important that they’re done immediately is because once a credible fear interview is done, then it gets rid of all of those loopholes that we’ve already talked about that they can exploit.
If we do a credible fear interview initially and on the spot, then that person must be held and a judge has to adjudicate their case within 10 days. Right now, an adjudication of a case takes anywhere between two to five years.
That’s simply because of the resources and because Citizens and Immigration Services do the credible fear interviews because they’re overwhelmed.
So what is then looked at is to give Border Patrol agents the authority to conduct the credible fear interviews because we arrest them on the spot.
If we’re able to give them a credible fear interview within the time that it takes to process these individuals, then it puts them into that asylum system immediately in which a judge, by regulation, then must adjudicate that case within 10 days.
It would force the government to actually do what it needs to do to deal with the current issue that we’re facing.
del Guidice: That’s amazing. We never see policy discussions like that in media.
That was my final question for you. What is your perspective on the media coverage of the situation at the border? Are there things that you would like to see be more widely reported on?
Judd: What leaves me scratching my head is why the media isn’t just honest in discussing everything that’s going on.
You can discuss the humanitarian issue if you want and that’s perfectly fine, but why not discuss all of the truth that is associated with the catch and release, with the asylum loopholes, with the deportation loopholes?
You hear the media talking about, “We have this crisis on the border because of the economic and violent situations that are going on in these countries.”
Yet, there’s not been any study that has been done that shows that the economic situation has changed in Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador since 2014 and that violence in some of those countries has actually gone down a little bit.
Yet, we have this huge illegal immigration crisis and the media doesn’t discuss all of the factors behind that.
All you hear is the sensationalizing of what’s taking place and you only hear one side of the story or one perspective and that’s the perspective from the illegal alien.
… As long as it’s being reported from all perspectives, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but because it’s only being reported from a very liberal point of view, that becomes very frustrating and it becomes difficult to combat what’s being put out in the mainstream media.
del Guidice: We’ve been talking with Brandon Judd. He’s the president of the National Border Patrol Council and also a border agent. Brandon, thank you so much for speaking with us today.
Judd: Appreciate your time. Thank you.