As most of us prepare to spend our Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends, the family of one Border Patrol agent will be making funeral arrangements and another will be keeping a vigil beside the hospital bed of their seriously injured loved one.
Based on the available news accounts, and tweets from President Trump, it appears that agent Rogelio Martinez and an un-named partner were “responding to activity” in the rural Big Bend sector when they were assaulted by illegal aliens. Neither agent was shot. However, representatives from the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents Border Patrol agents, have indicated that the union believes Martinez and his partner were attacked by illegal aliens using rocks as weapons.
Unfortunately, the current tragedy was preventable. Attacks where illegal aliens use rocks or other debris as weapons to attack law enforcement personnel have long been a major concern in border areas. The problem is so serious that many Border Patrol vehicles are equipped with steel mesh rock screens to protect occupants. And a number of individuals have been prosecuted for assault with a deadly weapon after hurling rocks at Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officials.
Nevertheless, in 2014, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, succumbed to political correctness and directed Border Patrol agents not to use firearms against people throwing projectiles, except in the direst circumstances. This move was largely due to pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union and allied groups that oppose any meaningful border enforcement and refuse to acknowledge that rocks, bricks and other detritus have been used to lethal effect for millennia. And it sent a clear message to illegal aliens that accommodating them was more important to the United States government than the right of self-defense of the civil servants that protect our nations’ borders.
The Border Patrol has a long tradition of sacrifice for the public good. And not just while enforcing immigration law but also when providing aid and assistance to illegal aliens who have become lost or stranded in the southwestern deserts. Accordingly, there has always been a certain amount of prestige attached to being a Border Patrol agent. Over the years, the agency has had little trouble attracting recruits, many of whom had already served in the Armed Forces.
However, that will change if those with an interest in immigration law enforcement begin to believe that they have become expendable and start asking, “Who will defend the defenders?” And that would create a crisis that the United States cannot afford. Despite the ongoing threat from terror groups, drug cartels and foreign intelligence assets, our border with Mexico is really nothing but an unsecured line in the sand. But for the men and women of the United States Department of Homeland Security, our border wouldn’t exist as anything but a legal and diplomatic concept. Besides preventing even more massive illegal immigration they are the last line of defense between us and criminals who might otherwise prey on our communities.
That means the Trump administration should get its act together and take measures to make the job of the men and women who protect our frontiers significantly easier. Our political leaders must put the safety of our law enforcement professionals first and consider the complaints of foreign intruders only when we suspect government officials of having violated the law. No one wants the representatives of our government engaging in the indiscriminate use of force. Nevertheless, depriving those who protect us of the right to self-defense is a crime in and of itself.
And, while a wall is not a panacea that will eliminate all illegal migration, a difficult to breach physical barrier would go a long way toward limiting the threats that our Border Patrol agents are forced to confront each day. Our current, porous frontier is rapidly becoming a free-fire zone where neither private citizens, nor law enforcement officers, nor even illegal aliens are safe.
When border guards can be ambushed and killed on the American side of the border, while attending to their duties, in a government vehicle — the United States has drifted far closer to becoming a borderless state than should ever have been the case.
Matt O’Brien is the former chief of the National Security Division within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has also served as assistant chief counsel in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s New York district. He is currently the director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).