Since Donald Trump took office, the Border Patrol has gone from a relatively obscure law enforcement agency to one of the most reviled. Not only are Border Patrol agents, along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the face of Trump&aposs draconian immigration policies, from family separation to across the board detention for asylum seekers, but the president has cleaved to and promoted the agency, elevating it from "a backwater in prior administrations when compared to other federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Secret Service," as Richard Lardner wrote in the Associated Press. But while the Border Patrol has been in the news consistently throughout Trump&aposs time as president, we&aposve heard relatively little from agents themselves.
Reporters for the New York Times spoke with 25 current and former Border Patrol agents, and they found not only overwhelming appreciation for Trump, his support, and his immigration policies, but also tension over the agents&apos rapidly changing roles and public perception. A 21-year-veteran of the agency said, "To have gone from where people didn’t know much about us to where people actively hate us, it’s difficult. There’s no doubt morale has been poor in the past, and it’s abysmal now. I know a lot of guys just want to leave." Brandon Judd, president of the Border Patrol union and a Trump ally, said, " I just had a relative four days ago send me one of the nastiest emails I’ve ever had in my life. How bad of people we are. How taxpayer dollars should not be used to abuse individuals."
The public animosity toward Border Patrol agents isn&apost surprising considering the amount of bad press they&aposve been involved in. Early last year, video circulated showing Border Patrol agents destroying water jugs left in the desert for migrants. This year, it came out that dozens of agents belonged to a private Facebook group in which they mocked dead migrants and threatened Hispanic politicians. Customs and Border Protection, the agency overseeing the Border Patrol, announced that it wouldn&apost administer flu vaccines in camps, held an American teenager for nearly a month despite him having proof of citizenship, and deported and revoked the visa of a Palestinian college student because of his friends&apos social media.
Even before this series of scandals and public outrages, Border Patrol work seemed to be psychologically taxing. According to the Times, prior to the expansion of agents&apos duties under Trump—from apprehending migrants to running the ever-growing detention camps—the work took a toll:
From 2007 to 2018, more than 100 Customs and Border Protection employees, many of whom had worked as Border Patrol agents, killed themselves. Ross Davidson, who retired in 2017 after 21 years with the agency, said he was certain that stress from the job has been a factor. "The repetitive monotony of doing the same thing over and over and seeing no outcome, seeing no end to it and nothing changing,” he said. “It’s just going deeper and deeper, and getting worse and worse."
Border crossing reportedly dropped in August, after Trump began implementing a policy that forces asylum seekers to wait out their application process in Mexico. Still, on any given day, Border Patrol holds as many as 2,000 children in custody, and as long as Trump&aposs solution to illegal crossings is to further militarize the border, then this deepening crisis may keep getting worse.
Originally Appeared on GQ