It’s all Alison’s fault.
She shot a video a week or so ago that showed some border patrol agents who had just captured a migrant. She noticed it because there was a helicopter in the air, numerous agents on the ground, horses, and a few vehicles, all on her property.
She questioned, and rightly so I believe, what the cost was to the taxpayer for capturing that one man. She also questioned, and again I believe rightly so, why the captured man had a bloody nose.
She captured all this video and put it on youtube. That’s when the fun began.
There was a flurry of comments, mostly negative, and some even questioning her patriotism or threatening her. Let me say she was a bit sarcastic a few times, but she didn’t degrade the border patrol, the agents, or their work. In one small part, she merely questioned, briefly, the cost. And the bloody nose.
Well, the next day an agent appeared at her door and invited her for a tour of the station. She accepted the invitation and I tagged along.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve been at the station here. I used to have a very good working relationship with the man in charge and a number of the agents. But it has grown so much since I was there last.
The station, built in the 80’s to accommodate about 25 agents, is now surrounded by portable buildings, and the whole mess of buildings accommodates about 350 agents, and stores about a zillion vehicles (including ATVs), a dozen or so horses, and a few working dogs. It also has a mini-prison where migrants are detained until deportation. It is way overcrowded and must be terribly inefficient and difficult to run an operation that is spread out over so many buildings.
The agent, male, a senior agent at the station, was accompanied by a younger female agent, and together they toured us around the site, even driving us out to the horse stalls. Alison and I rode in the back of an official Blazer that was separated from the front by grillwork, just in case we wanted to reach forward and strangle them or something, which we didn’t. Didn’t do. Didn’t want to do. They were really nice folks.
Then, they took us on a border tour, down the border road heading west toward the river. For me this was a bittersweet trip. It was comfortable even though we were locked in the back of a Blazer like prisoners. We weren’t at all treated that way, but still, the feeling was odd.
The drive was bittersweet because I used to drive the border road regularly, all the way to the river, where I’d walk around and occasionally have a picnic. It’s a beautiful drive through Arizona/Sonora grasslands. Cattle grazing, quail dashing about attempting to run five directions at once, blue skies and gently waving grass. The river in the distance.
I can no longer drive that road because the border patrol has put up a secondary wall, about thirty feet north of the border wall, and there is no access to the border road except along a private road, usable only by agents.
So it was good to ride that road again. We passed places I used to stop, and cruised past the area where for years we had the bi-national fiesta: tables of food on both sides of the border; a stage where US folks simply hopped the low wall into Mexico to take their turns singing, dancing, or whatever; and the volleyball net, strung atop the barrier wall so we could play boisterous rounds of the game. Those days are gone now, because the low barricade has been replaced by a twelve-foot steel wall. And, of course, we can’t use the road.
The agents drove us all the way to the river – which was dry, by the way – and we all got out for a few minutes. I almost cried. It is such a beautiful spot, and it’s a place I can’t get to any more because we’re not allowed access to the road. I hadn’t been there in years.
During the tour and on the drive, I got in my three big gripes with the border patrol. First, of course, is the new wall which denies me access to the border road. Second, I got to complain about the helicopter that flies w-a-y too low and sometimes seems about to hit the ground. And third, I got to tell them how many of us were upset that agents drive so fast down residential streets, often blasting down the roads at 50 mph in a 25 mph zone. We were able to talk about each of these issues, and I think they sort of understand about my missing the border road and fears that I’ll have that a helicopter fall into my living room one day. They absolutely agreed about the agents who speed.
In all, I think it was a good tour. We heard them, they heard us. There is still a gulf. But communication is good. At the end of the tour, the agent told us he was at our service. So, smartass that I am, I said I’d like to be driven weekly to the river, and that he should pack a picnic.
He laughed and said I’d have to do with pizza.
It’s all Alison’s fault.