In the busy smuggling zone of Starr County, Texas, illegal aliens are waiting for one thing to happen each day before they take the plunge to cross over into the United States illegally – they’re waiting until the boats leave the water.
Millions of dollars in both state and federal funds are spent to increase border security in the Rio Grande Valley, but U.S. Border Patrol does not keep boats on patrol around the clock in the 300 miles of waterways in the region. After the boats quit for the day, the smuggling action begins, reports the Texas Tribune.
Border Patrol Agent Jose Perales said when boats are on the water holding off the flow of illegals, it’s “downtime” for agents further inland, but once the boat patrol stops for the day, the floodgates are open wide.
Why can’t the boats stay on patrol around the clock? Perales says, “We don’t have the manpower. Bigger stations have three shifts, so their boats are operating 24/7… but we don’t have the manpower.”
Border Patrol union official Chris Cabrera disagrees. He says it’s more about willpower. Cabrera says the station has more than 3,000 agents, and insists there are more than enough who are willing to run the boats. “We have manpower at the station, but they don’t want to take away from the station to put it on a boat, even though it’s a force multiplier.”
CBP spokeswoman Marlene Castro cited a long list of reasons why not just any border patrol agent can run the boats. She said the units are assigned maritime duty “according to trends and intelligence.”
Two years of experience is required, they must be certified as a crewman, passing fitness and swim tests, attend a four-week course in Georgia to be a vessel commander, followed by a 10-week course to prepare for a performance evaluation, then, if accepted, endure another two-week evaluation. A boat commander also has to pass quarterly evaluations… and then they can only pilot a boat for 6 out of 12 hours, followed by a 10-hour rest.
It’s all because the Border Patrol follows U.S. Coast Guard standards – but Texas Tribune notes that those standards are designed for commercial vessels – not for small river boats.
The State of Texas also has a small fleet of boats for the area they patrol… and they are on watch 24/7, having enough commanders to rotate into position for each shift.
Cabera says the boats are the best assets the Border Patrol has, and the Border Patrol’s failure to have a more “robust” fleet on the water 24/7 “hits a nerve” with him.
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