Earlier today, I was offered a ride from an off-duty Border Patrol agent. Naturally, I accepted, in exchange for an interview.
His name was “Jeff” for the purposes of this aside. Before Border Patrol, Jeff worked as a corrections officer. For him, two very different jobs.
Jeff had an unheard of three day weekend in the first time in a long time. For the past four years, he has been working over 50 hours a week, not including the hour and a half commute both ways. Ten-hour shifts are mandatory for Border Patrol agents and the need now for so much of their time isn’t surprising.
This may be the last scheduled three-day weekend Jeff gets in a long while. I say this because the current administration is asking for above and beyond from agents on the ground. And the need is there.
Due to a number of factors in Central and South America, there’s a crisis at borders where some peace may be found. Most notably of course, we’re talking about the United States.
President Donald Trump has called migrants, who’ve trekked thousands of miles for safety, an “invasion.” His language has been less around a humanitarian crisis currently happening and more about a white separatist border crisis.
Jeff, having served years in Arizona as a corrections officer, didn’t want to talk about Trump and his policies of racism.
Last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), only about 26,000 migrants were processed. This year, according to Arizona Republic report, with already more than 27,000 migrant families processed in the Yuma Sector in this first fiscal quarter, agents like Jeff are working almost four times as hard.
For this administration, that isn’t enough. And we all know what happens when fast food workers are overworked and underpaid. So the struggle in Yuma at the moment is just that.
Thankfully, Jeff reported a decent paycheck. For his experience in corrections, his take home was about $40/hour. However, not everyone may be so fortunate and funding only goes so far.
Earlier this month, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Kristjen Nielsen, left Yuma Border Patrol with a promise. They needed more resources and she was to deliver. That was until the White House called down the line: break the law, do what you have to, and also, everyone who made promises to CBP is fired.
Now agents like Jeff are taking what time away they can get, because there’s a lot of work to be done.
Late last month, Border Patrol gave Yuma nonprofits a full day’s notice that they were releasing migrant families in droves into the desert community, without direction, guidance, or food, up to 200 a day.
The Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona of Yuma, the Yuma Community Food Bank, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross, since the month began has had little time to develop a massive response. Their goal: to feed, house, educate, and better direct people in a country that is alien, a language that is foreign, and customs that border on edgy in many spheres.
Hopefully, with a change of pace in the White House come 2020, the American response to refugees will greatly improve. Jeff needs it. Migrant families need it. And even this rapper has called for it in 2016:
So why all the refugees, you wonder?
Late last year, it was being published that an unseen driver behind the current Central American refugee crisis was climate change, which affected food security. This was, of course, underpinning a crisis in their corrupt, violent, and gang-run governments.
This was one woman’s story in the New York Times.
Yet, this massive exodus for survival is nothing new. On Amnesty International’s website on the subject, the human rights organization reiterated the 2014 findings of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. According to those UNHCR findings, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama have seen a 432% increase in asylum applications.
Last summer, TIME’s headline said it well:
‘There Is No Way We Can Turn Back.’ Why Thousands of Refugees Will Keep Coming to America Despite Trump’s Crackdown
Organizations such as Amnesty International have been working on issues like these around the world for years. So while the current administration might be clueless as to solutions, the Washington Post, among many individuals and orgs, proffer their own.