The phrase “do the math” keeps coming up when referring to complex border issues. As a border resident, I notice things that people north of the border might not.
For example, my buddy the Three Sonorans made the argument on his blog that there are 8 Border Patrol agents per mile on the border. He did the math, I guess. He took the number of agents, divided it by the number of miles of the border. Hence, he came up with 8 agents per mile. He’s working on his PhD in math, so he ought to know.
However, he is wrong.
The “per mile” statements lead people to believe that there are actually 8 agents working in a given mile along the border. As a border resident under the jurisdiction of the Tucson sector, I drive sometimes to Tucson. I see agents here and there all the way to the checkpoint, which in my neck of the woods is about 25 miles north of the border. Then, we have the agents who work in and around Tucson, which is around 60 miles north of the border. We have agents who work in and around Casa Grande, about 150 miles north of Nogales. In fact, here’s a map to demonstrate my point.
Look at Arizona on the map. There, you will see the Border Patrol stations in southern Arizona. They are indicated with those cute little red dots. I have two stations in the vicinity that jointly patrol parts of the area where I live (a fact that I think leads to some miscommunication).
From those stations, the Border Patrol agents work about one-third of the state (the cream colored area). They are NOT lined up at the border. They are doing things in that entire area. So, the math formula has to change distribute the agents in the square miles that are patrolled in southern Arizona.
What do they do so far from the border?
Well, groups of them rotate in shifts at the checkpoints north of the border. They patrol in the areas between the checkpoints to make sure no illegals or drugs have bypassed the checkpoints. (The illegals sure do bypass them!) Some agents are busy with drug seizures. Other agents assist in the apprehension of people who are found to be here illegally.
Our newest blogger Karl Hoffman presented a story of a father who is scheduled to be deported. The father came here 20 years ago, before he was a father, with his wife. The couple settled down and had two children, now teenagers. Since the children were born here, they are U.S. citizens. Since they are underage, the mother gets to stay. The father, however, will be deported.
The parents knew that they were here illegally, but they had children knowing that they might get caught someday. They also knew what the consequences would be. In their case, it was 20 years before they were caught..20 years. Our agents are busy assisting in the apprehension of people that have been here for 20 years – and in some cases longer.
This is just wrong.
This is in the job description of a Border Patrol agent, if you don’t believe my assessment of what I see them doing every day:
The primary focus of Border Patrol Agents is to work in tandem with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) partners to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States. Border Patrol Agents also detect and prevent the smuggling and unlawful entry of undocumented aliens into the United States and apprehend people found to be in violation of U.S. immigration laws. Additionally, due to the increase in drug smuggling operations, they are the primary drug-interdicting agents along the land borders.
One of the most important duties performed by Border Patrol Agents is known as line-watch, involving the detection and apprehension of undocumented aliens and their smugglers by maintaining surveillance from a covert position, pursuing leads, responding to electronic sensor alarms, utilizing infrared scopes during night operations, using low-light level television systems, sighting aircraft, and interpreting and following tracks, marks, and other physical evidence. Border Patrol Agents also perform traffic checks, traffic observation, city patrol transportation checks, and other administrative, intelligence, and anti-smuggling activities.
Wow! Detect and prevent terrorists, undocumented aliens, drugs, and also apprehend those found to be here illegally. That is a hell of a lot to do. Add to that the administrative end of their jobs. Remember, this is government, so there are a lot of administrative tasks that go with the job. The temporarily placed National Guard troops granted by Obama will help with these said administrative tasks. The agents are still going to be doing all of the other things I mentioned, which is a hell of a lot in a given shift.
Additionally, an agent does not work around the clock in 24-hour shifts. We’d like them to, but they have to sleep. These aren’t robots, you know. So, in a given 24-hour period there are shifts in which these agents have to rotate (to patrol that particular “mile”, as they say) along the border. Many are stationed far north of the border. They also have days off and some of them do take vacations. Some might call in sick on a given day. Considering all of this, the formula then becomes very complex.
Now, do the math.