Wednesday, December 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Border Patrol has lots of agents – in wrong places

Border Patrol Staffing Imbalance

In this June 5, 2014, photo, a Border Patrol agent uses a headset and computer to conduct a long distance interview by video with a person arrested crossing the border in Texas, from a facility in San Diego. Hit with a dramatic increase of Central Americans crossing in South Texas, the Border Patrol is relieving staffing woes by enlisting agents in less busy sectors to process arrests through video interviews. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

By
From page A1 | June 30, 2014 |

SAN DIEGO — The downcast faces on computer screens are 1,500 miles away at a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas: a 20-year old Honduran woman arrested rafting across the Rio Grande and a 23-year-old man caught under similar circumstances.

Four agents wearing headsets reel through a list of personal questions, spending up to an hour on each adult and even longer on children. On an average day, hundreds of migrants are questioned on camera by agents in San Diego and other stations on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The long-distance interviews – introduced last year in El Paso, Texas, and extended to California – are a response to the dramatic increase of Central Americans crossing the border in Texas that also has flooded immigration facilities with hundreds of women and children. The Border Patrol does not have the staff to process all the immigrants crossing in the Rio Grande Valley, but faraway colleagues have time to spare.

The remote video processing reveals a perpetual predicament that has long bedeviled the Border Patrol. Many agents wind up stationed in places where crossing activity is slowest because the Border Patrol struggles to keep up with constantly shifting migration patterns.

One example of the staffing mismatch: the roughly 2,500 agents in the San Diego sector arrested 97 immigrants illegally crossing the border on June 14, according to an internal document reviewed by The Associated Press. On the same day, the roughly 3,200 agents in the Rio Grande Valley made 1,422 arrests.

President Barack Obama will ask Congress for more than $2 billion to respond to the flood of immigrants illegally entering the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley and for new powers to deal with returning unaccompanied children, a White House official said Saturday. A letter will be sent to Congress on Monday, said the official who was not authorized to speak by name and discussed the requests on condition of anonymity. The exact amount and how it will be spent will come after Congress returns from recess on July 7. Whether any funds will go toward border staffing is unknown.

In San Diego, the video processing is a welcome change of pace. Arrests are at 45-year lows and many agents go entire shifts without finding anyone. Cesar Rodriguez, who joined the Border Patrol in 2010, said eight hours fly by since he gave up his assignment watching a stretch of scrub-covered hills east of San Diego and took on a new assignment to process the immigrants via video.

“If there’s nothing going on, what are you going to do? You’re just staring at the fence,” Rodriguez said in his new office, whose parking lot offers sweeping views of hillside homes in Tijuana, Mexico.

A few feet away, Victor Nunez says he interviewed a woman carrying a 4-month-old child and spent his last shift working on a group of 93 people that crossed the Rio Grande at once. Such activity was unheard of on his overnight shift patrolling the quiet mountains near San Diego.

“I feel like we’re helping out our agents,” said Nunez, who joined the Border Patrol in 2011. “It’s a big problem going on there.”

The McAllen station is designed to hold a few hundred people, but often teems with more than 1,000 who spill into hallways and outside. Migrants have been sent to stations in quieter parts of Texas, and they were overwhelmed. Overcrowding at the Laredo station prompted a visit from the fire marshal last month.

The shift to the Rio Grande Valley is part of a long-running trend where immigrants and smugglers change crossing locations faster than the government responds.

San Diego was the hot spot until the mid-1990s, when 1,000 agents were added there. After traffic moved to Arizona, staffing in Tucson ballooned under President George W. Bush, who doubled the Border Patrol close to its current size of more than 21,000 agents.

Some warn against bulking up in South Texas because smuggling routes will inevitably change along the 1,954-mile border.

“They don’t want to transfer a mass amount of agents and open a gap somewhere else where we have control,” said David Aguilar, the Border Patrol chief from 2004 to 2010.

Forced transfers must be negotiated with the National Border Patrol Council, the union which represents agents, and have not happened on a large scale.

The Border Patrol can move agents for 35 days – longer by mutual agreement – but those temporary assignments are expensive. More than 100 agents were sent to Rio Grande Valley this spring for short stays.

Voluntary transfers were an option but have not been used widely in South Texas. The Border Patrol began a campaign about 10 years ago, partly aimed at boosting morale, to offer more transfers if agents moved themselves. And, as agents quit or retire, the vast majority of new hires who replace them are now assigned to Rio Grande Valley.

The Border Patrol introduced video processing in El Paso in April 2013 to address the surge in Rio Grande Valley, where most border crossers are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and many are unaccompanied children. It expanded the processing to El Centro, California, in March, and to San Diego last month.

Between 230 and 500 people have been processed by video each day since it was introduced last year, but lack of detention space in Rio Grande Valley recently prompted authorities to fly migrants to El Paso and Arizona for processing, said Jackie Wasiluk, a spokeswoman for the Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection. The agency said Friday that it will also fly migrants to California for processing.

Costs are not an issue with video processing. Headsets and cameras are $70 apiece, and it’s a small sacrifice to supervisors.

Agents use a long questionnaire that aims to establish identity – where they lived, where they went to school, where they went to church. Most migrants don’t have identification, so U.S. authorities must convince consulates to issue passports. Otherwise, they can’t be deported.

Throughout their shifts, agents trade instant messages with counterparts in Rio Grande Valley.

“If you have time, can you adjust the camera? It was too high. Ready for another case if you have one,” typed Jake Garcia, a San Diego agent for five years.

His counterpart was talking to a group of migrants. Garcia swirled his chair for something rare in his new role: He took a break.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 3 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • DanielJune 30, 2014 - 7:24 am

    Who is paying the $4,000 per person to the coyotes to assist these impoverished disease riddled illegal aliens to cross the border? When are Obama and the Dems going to wake up and realize the humanitarian crisis that they're creating by waiving the carrot of free dual citizenship just to create new Dem voters?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JagJune 30, 2014 - 9:25 am

    I would rather spend 2 billion on payroll for more border agents and not let them in, Lets make it Mexico problem.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Misleadng headlines....June 30, 2014 - 1:16 pm

    I think the headline is wrong. We don't have border patrol agents in the wrong place, we have illegal aliens in the wrong place.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Menorah on Main begins celebration of Hanukkah

By Glen Faison | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Haynes, Travis district part company

By Glen Faison | From Page: A1, 5 Comments

 
Optimist Club welcomes student essays

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Police arrest 5 on DUI allegations

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 3 Comments

 
Free new home heater warms Solano family

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Crash blocks part of Air Base Parkway

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Police arrest 4 for suspected marijuana sales

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
 
‘Hobbit’ story ends on big screen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Icon Aircraft wants to rename 2 Vacaville streets

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A8

 
Council delays decision on anti-smoking ordinance

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A8

 
Police arrest man caught driving stolen car

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A8

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 14, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Faifield police log: Dec. 12, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 14, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Dec. 12, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
.

US / World

Quotes from around the world on Pakistan attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
A look at the Pakistani Taliban militant group

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Taliban assault on Pakistan school leaves 141 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
State retiree health care gap reaches $72 billion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 4 Comments

Robin Williams tops 2014 list of Google searches

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Cosby won’t be charged over molestation claim

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
End game: No immigration deal, just divisions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Jeb Bush to ‘actively explore’ run for president

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

 
Ex-Marine wanted in 6 killings commits suicide

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 2 Comments

Gay vets can march in Boston St. Patrick’s parade

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

 
Sydney siege victims lauded for courage, kindness

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Horror over deadly Sydney siege turns to anger

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Aussie leader: System failed to track siege gunman

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Islamic State recruits broadly, not just fighters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah begins

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Filipino mayor expresses support for Guam statue

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Employees arrested for baby theft in Guatemala

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Israel arrests members of Jewish extremist group

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Ireland plans May vote on legalizing gay marriage

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Opinion

 
LA looks to election shift to boost turnout

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

 
What is Hanukkah’s significance?

By The Rev. Dan Molyneux | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

.

Living

Community Calendar: Dec. 17, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Dec. 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Dec. 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
My teenage daughter seems to be cutting me out of her life

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

A chocolatey rich coconut cream pie for Christmas

By Elizabeth Karmel | From Page: B7

 
Go Italian this Christmas with lobster manicotti

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Dressing up a simple hash for Christmas brunch

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

Letterman pulls curtain on holiday tradition

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

Green Day, Reed, Starr into rock hall

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Fixes planned for clinic that treated Joan Rivers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Chris Borland’s rookie 49ers season likely over

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Some Raiders players want Sparano in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Fairfield grad Bishop signs with 49ers

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Memphis stops Golden State’s 16-game win streak

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

College football playoff participants stack AP All-America team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Yankees GM Cashman: A-Rod now a full-time DH

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sprint to end NASCAR sponsorship after 2016 season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders place LB Sio Moore on IR

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Patriots regain top spot in AP Pro32 rankings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Rodriguez girls finally get win over Monte Vista

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Panthers outlast Capitals in longest NHL shootout, 20 rounds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

AP sources: NFL employees turn over phone, email records

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bills deliver Lions pizza, wings for hospitality

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

1998 World Cup winner Thierry Henry retires

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
USOC decides to bid for 2024; city still undecided

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

T-Mobile to let customers carry over unused data

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Apple wins class-action lawsuit over iPod prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

California home prices cool in November on sluggish sales

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Apple stops sales in Russia, citing unstable ruble

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Obama backs bill imposing new sanctions on Russia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9, 5 Comments

 
Sony hackers reference 9/11 in new threats against theaters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Russian ruble sinks sharply despite bank rate hike

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
.

Obituaries

Collie Joseph Blossom

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Calvin B. Shin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

Jennie Ponce Reyes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

James Nelson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
.

Comics

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6