Border Patrol: Behind the Badge - Part 2 (2022)

A surge in illegal immigration is impacting the operations of the U.S. Border Patrol Air and Marine Operations El Paso Air Branch.

By CBS7 Staff

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 11:46 AM CDT

ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - A surge in illegal immigration is impacting the operations of the U.S. Border Patrol Air and Marine Operations El Paso Air Branch.

(Video) US Mexico Border Patrol: Behind the Badge Part 1, 2, 3

Watch Border Patrol: Behind the Badge - Part 1 here

The Director of the El Paso Air Branch, John Stonehouse, said the Big Bend and El Paso Sectors have never seen the large numbers of encounters with undocumented people they’re seeing this year.

“The smuggling activity, the exploitation of humans right now is extremely high. We have never seen a movement this much of personnel, of people since I’ve been part of the program,” he said.

Stonehouse started working in federal aviation law enforcement in 2002 in Florida. He then worked in sectors in Arizona and has served in El Paso since July of 2019.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics, agents have encountered 34,694 undocumented people in the Big Bend Sector to date in the 2021 fiscal year. The fiscal year will end on September 30, 2021. Meanwhile, agents in the El Paso Sector have encountered 176,102 migrants, according to CBP. Single adults make up most of the encounters in both sectors.

CBS7 team members flew and spoke with one El Paso Air Branch pilot. The pilot has worked with AMO since 2008, and his name is not being released due to privacy concerns. The CBS7 team flew from Alpine to near Presidio.

“You’d probably get real annoyed with me, But I’d just be talking the whole time where people are apprehended. So, it’s anywhere along this entire stretch,” the pilot said.

The pilot pointed out an area during the flight where branch pilots recently found undocumented people.

“We caught some right here the other day in this little pass right there. I think there were 12,” he said.

The aviation expert said the largest group he’s encountered is around 83 people.

“We’re on the board for the record.”

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The land turns from a flat desert into mountains near parts of the border. But the pilot and director said the terrain doesn’t deter smugglers.

“We’re dealing with a lot of the cartels working out here. They’re pushing these folks out here in camouflage. They’re not surrendering to the aircraft; they’re not surrendering to the Border Patrol agents. They are fleeing apprehension,” Stonehouse said.

The pilot said criminal organizations sometimes place scouts or lookouts on the mountains. He added that agents and pilots never fully know who is in the groups they encounter.

“We just never know who’s in the group; it’s a mixed bag. And the criminals know that just as well as anybody else. So they might just be people looking for work or MS-13 gang members,” he said.

Nestled in remote land close to the U.S./ Mexico border, the pilot flew over piles of trash left by undocumented people on a ranch owner’s property.

“Look at all that- It’s all trash. There was at least a thousand to 1,500 backpacks. It’s like a little landfill- look at all that garbage,” he said.

According to the pilot, the goal of the undocumented people or smugglers is to get to Highway 90, or Interstate 10.

Drug smuggling also continues to surge in the sector, according to Director Stonehouse.

“They’re not just carrying marijuana. A lot of times, they’re, they carve out the center of the marijuana, and they’re moving fentanyl, methamphetamines, cocaine, they do what we call a mixed load. We’ve seen that trend up about the last year and now has really increased smuggling up from Mexico. It’s really bad. It’s probably the worst thing we’ve seen in the history since I’ve been doing this is fentanyl,” he said.

Onboard several aircraft is Narcan, a medication that blocks the effects of an opioids overdose. This fiscal year, AMO and non-CBP agencies found more than 252 pounds of fentanyl, compared to 202 pounds in 2020, according to the CBP website. The amount of cocaine found has also tripled this year. The latest numbers from CBP show across all operations, AMO found 15,592 pounds of cocaine so far in 2021, compared to 5,104 pounds of cocaine in 2020.

Director Stonehouse said El Paso Air Branch pilots have also found “stash houses” and “loading areas.”

(Video) On the Banks of the Border: The Heart Behind the Badge

The director said agents have to be careful when encountering people believed to be involved in illegal activity.

“We’re finding long arms with them; AK-47′s seem to be their preferred weapon. It just varies from group to group, but usually, there was a long arm or a shotgun somewhere in that group. Because, not only are they going to encounter the wildlife that we have out here, right, but it’s also other cartels. And a lot of times, cartels get in turf wars, and they could end up in an altercation with another one trying to, trying to, you know, snag their load for profit preaching,” he said.

More resources are being diverted to the area, according to Director Stonehouse. The law enforcement expert said 85 percent of the branch’s flight hours go directly to border enforcement. And the unit puts in around eight flight hours per day. He also said about 200 more flight hours have been added.

“Congress did agree to provide us with 16 of these A-Stars, which we appreciate very much. We have about 105 of them throughout the entire nation for Air- Marine,” he said.

Pilots locate and track migrant groups in the air then U.S. Border Patrol agents will make apprehensions on the ground. The aircraft also have food and water on board to give to migrants. Director Stonehouse said pilots can also fly an agent to a group, and they often aid other agencies. Agents also operate unmanned aircraft.

The increase in illegal immigration is also affecting the number of rescue calls AMO pilots receive from migrants. Across all AMO operations, 339 rescues have been made in 2021, compared to 184 in 2020, according to CBP statistics.

“Anytime we log the rescue, and we save a human life, that is the most significant thing I feel we can do every day,” the director said.

During the media flight with CBS7, the pilot flew over the rocky sides of a mountain that featured a sheer dropoff in many directions. The pilot relayed the story of one rescue.

“Copy, the most epic rescue that some of our guys had done over this area. The guy was left behind by his group. He had a broken leg and didn’t have any food or water. He climbed up that cliff we just flew over, about a thousand feet, because he knew he had cell phone coverage on this rim if he could get over and pick up the antennas. He makes a call with the remaining battery on his cell phone. And once the phone died, he took it apart and made a signal mirror out of it. When the helicopter came, he was able to signal it and rescue him. He was in really rough shape, but he made it,” he said.

Director Stonehouse said the man had been without water for four days and without food for five days. He said a crewman carried the undocumented person to the aircraft, and he was taken to a regional hospital.

The branch’s fleet of aircraft are not equipped as Medevac. Director Stonehouse said pilots can land and assess the person, or an Emergency Medical Technicians can be flown in to help. But in rare circumstances, where people require immediate medical help, the pilot will move the person from one point to another.

(Video) Betraying The Badge - Episode 8

“We can move them from one point to another point to get them to advanced life support and ultimately save their life, which we’ve had several times this year,” Stonehouse said.

The director said that oftentimes a smuggler will leave the group when they feel threatened.

“The primary person will depart and leave the group. Or if they see some obstacles or they feel they’re threatened, they will just leave the group behind, which is a struggle for the group. Because these people do not know where they’re at, they don’t know what’s going on. Usually, the smugglers get paid upfront. So they’ve already got their money. So, you know, that’s the human factor of this right, they’re all human beings,” he said.

The law enforcement officials told CBS7, although West Texans may not recognize the impact border crossings have on their communities, its effect is felt in every town.

“We understand that what happens on the border does eventually affect the interior of the United States. It does. It’s not just isolated at the border. Our small towns have had a lot of unique challenges over the last year,” he said.

The director said the air branch and CBP agency as a whole have encountered significant challenges in recent times, and he is proud of their work.

“We’ve had the large caravans. COVID has been the challenge that threw us last year. The Delta variant, of course, is coming this year. And then with a large influx of non- U.S. citizens coming across the borders at various locations across the southwest region. It is one heck of a challenge, and I’m very proud of the men and women that work under my command that we’re taking that challenge head-on,” the director said.

The El Paso Air Branch works with federal, state, local, and tribal partners. Agency leaders also regularly talk with law enforcement in Mexico, Stonehouse said.

“We can’t do what we do without their assistance. Both countries are intertwined; both countries will forever be intertwined, especially when there’s an international border the way it is. And it is a major advantage for us to work, both parties together, to achieve the common goal. And we do it very well here in the Big Bend Sector; I’ll speak for that. And we also do it very well in the El Paso Sector. The two chiefs that work those areas have routine conversations with their GLM counterparts, and that really works good for us down here,” he said.

Copyright 2021 KOSA. All rights reserved.


Who is responsible for border security? ›

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is responsible for guarding nearly 7,000 miles of land border the United States shares with Canada and Mexico and 2,000 miles of coastal waters surrounding the Florida peninsula and off the coast of Southern California.

How many CBP officers are there? ›

With more than 60,000 employees, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP, is one of the world's largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.

What does CBP stand for? ›

U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Can Border Patrol pull you over? ›

Customs and Border Patrol are also conducting roving patrols and may also attempt to pull you over. They must have reasonable suspicion that the driver or passengers in your car committed some immigration violation or a federal crime, and they must have a probable cause to continue the stop.

Who runs the Border Patrol? ›

Commissioner. Chris Magnus is the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In this leadership position, he oversees 60,000 employees, manages a budget of over $15 billion, and ensures the effective operations of CBP's mission to protect national security while promoting economic prosperity. Mr.

What gun does CBP carry? ›

Glock Inc.'s G47 9mm handgun. CBP is among the nation's largest law enforcement agencies, and more than 50,000 CBP employees are authorized to carry sidearms.

Can CBP take my green card? ›

No matter how long you have had your green card and how many times you have traveled outside the country in the past, on any given return trip, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers can stop you at the air or sea port, take your green card and try to deport you.

What is the difference between Border Patrol and CBP? ›

The U.S. Border Patrol (“BP”) is part of CBP. Whereas CBP is charged with border enforcement at ports of entry, BP is responsible for patrolling the areas at and around international land borders.

Do CBP officers carry guns? ›

Authorized Officers/Agents are required to carry a CBP handgun during duty hours while performing uniformed law enforcement duties, except when operational circumstances preclude the carriage of a firearm.

Is the CBP exam hard? ›

As mentioned earlier, the Border Patrol Agent Entrance Exam is a difficult and competitive test, and it is necessary to pass the test in order to qualify for the next step in the hiring process of a Border Patrol Agent job.

Can CBP check your phone? ›

International travelers may know U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can scroll through your phone in a “random search.” But new details paint a picture of broad and messy data collection that puts your privacy at risk.

How long is border patrol training? ›

Located in Glynco, Georgia within the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), the FOA employs a fully accredited program to prepare new trainees to become CBP Officers. Law enforcement awareness and demeanor are exemplified and reinforced throughout the rigorous 89 day training program.

Is it hard to get into border patrol? ›

The Border Patrol hiring process requires an in-depth screening process. If you are a U.S. citizen, have a valid driver's license and successfully clear a criminal background check and drug test, you will be able to move forward in the border patrol application process.

How many hours do border patrol agents work? ›

Border Patrol Agents usually work a 10 hour shift. However, the length of the shift may vary on a case by case basis depending on the workload of the Agent. There are many types of additional work details Agents can assume by seniority of tenure.

Do I have to show Border Patrol my ID? ›

yes, it is perfectly legal for you to refuse to provide documentation or ID to border patrol, and your refusal cannot be used as a basis for reasonable suspicion of an immigration violation. The ACLU has a very helpful guide to your rights when questioned at Border Patrol checkpoints, whether fixed or random.

Can you refuse a Border Patrol search? ›

Motorist's may consent to a search but are not required to do so. The Border Patrol protects the United States by interdicting terrorists, illegal narcotics, and non-citizens attempting to egress away from the border area into the interior portions of our nations.

What is the 100 mile border law? ›

Specifically, federal regulations give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. "external boundary." In this 100-mile zone, Border Patrol agents have certain additional authorities. For instance, Border Patrol can operate immigration checkpoints.

Are Border Patrol agents police officers? ›

A Border Patrol Agent is a law enforcement officer operating under the oversight of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency or CBP.

How much does the chief of Border Patrol make? ›

$264,126. The estimated total pay for a Chief, CBP Officer is $264,126 per year in the United States area, with an average salary of $158,456 per year.

How much do CBP agents make? ›

Competitive Pay
GradeBase SalaryAverage FY 2022 Locality, Overtime and Premium Pay
1 more row

Which minister is responsible for the Canada Border Services Agency? ›

Erin O'Gorman was appointed President of the Canada Border Services Agency ( CBSA ) on July 18, 2022 .

Is Border Force part of the military? ›

Border Force officers are Civil Servants.

Who guards our nation? ›

The Indian Armed Forces are supported by the Indian Coast Guard, paramilitary forces, and various other organizations. The supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces is the President of India. All three services report to the Ministry of Defence.

How are borders protected? ›

Border zones between hostile states can be heavily militarised, with minefields, barbed wire, and watchtowers. Some border zones are designed to prevent illegal immigration or emigration and do not have many restrictions but may operate checkpoints to check immigration status.

How much do CBSA agents make? ›

The average Canada Border Services Agency salary ranges from approximately $73,257 per year for Agent to $92,197 per year for Criminal Investigator. Salary information comes from 126 data points collected directly from employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.

What level of Police is responsible for law enforcement at Canadian border crossings? ›

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA; French: Agence des services frontaliers du Canada, ASFC) is a federal law enforcement agency that is responsible for border control (i.e. protection and surveillance), immigration enforcement, and customs services in Canada.

Do CBSA officers have a badge? ›

The heraldic badge emphasizes the CBSA's role as a law enforcement agency that contributes to the safety of Canadians. It was designed for all CBSA employees to identify with.

Is it hard to get into border patrol? ›

The Border Patrol hiring process requires an in-depth screening process. If you are a U.S. citizen, have a valid driver's license and successfully clear a criminal background check and drug test, you will be able to move forward in the border patrol application process.

Are border patrol armed? ›

Border Patrol agents have a choice of being issued either the Glock 47 or the Glock 19M pistol in 9mm caliber. The Glock 47 can contain as many as 18 rounds of ammunition (17 in the magazine and 1 in the chamber), while the Glock 19 can contain as many as 16 rounds.

How long is Border Force training? ›

You'll get continuous training during your first 6 to 12 months. Once you've passed your probationary period, you'll have the full responsibilities of a Border Force officer.

How much do border guards make? ›

Border Services Officer Salaries
Job TitleSalary
Canada Border Services Agency Border Services Officer salaries - 28 salaries reported$80,768/yr
Government of Canada Border Services Officer salaries - 2 salaries reported$39/hr
Dairy Queen Border Services Officer salaries - 1 salaries reported$14/hr
17 more rows
2 Oct 2022

What do US border guards see on their computer? ›

Various types of tax information such as any Delinquent Tax payments. Current Job. Complete history of all border crossings – including state ports where there are border checks. Frequent traveler memberships such as Global Entry or NEXUS.

Which is the world's largest border guarding force? ›

It currently stands as the world's largest border guarding force.
Border Security Force.
Border Security Force सीमा सुरक्षा बल
Operations jurisdictionIndia
Governing bodyMinistry of Home Affairs (India)
Constituting instrumentBorder Security Force Act, 1968
General natureFederal law enforcement
22 more rows

Can you refuse a Border Patrol search? ›

Motorist's may consent to a search but are not required to do so. The Border Patrol protects the United States by interdicting terrorists, illegal narcotics, and non-citizens attempting to egress away from the border area into the interior portions of our nations.

Can Border Patrol search your house? ›

An immigration officer also cannot search you or your belongings without either “probable cause” or your consent. If an agent asks you if they can search your belongings, you have the right to say no. An immigration officer cannot arrest you without “probable cause.”

Which country has the best border security? ›

When asked which country has the most intimidating border officials, the US topped the list, followed by the UAE. The UK came in at number six, behind Mexico, Canada and South Korea.


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