Sergio A. Tinoco is the author of Proud American: The Migrant, Soldier, and Agent and has joined HSToday as a columnist to provide insights and facts about the conditions, challenges, and humanity of the situation on our southwest border. Tinoco started his journey to America as a poor migrant worker of Mexican descent, having to pick crops for a living from the age of 7. As a way to break from the family cycle of farm labor and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served 10 years on active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD.
After completing 10 years of military service, Sergio joined the U.S. Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent and having family in South Texas and in Mexico introduced new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.” He is currently serving as a Border Patrol agent, and all observations and columns are his own and not endorsed by CBP or the Border Patrol.
In any given week one can most certainly read or listen to a comment made by either a politician, a news anchor and even a known figure of Hollywood that both undermines the work of our men and women working today’s border crisis and insults their personal character.
Many, if not all, of these individuals have probably never taken the time to actually get to know a Border Patrol agent or a customs officer. They clearly have never taken the time to even learn more about their duties or what challenges they face on a daily basis. What do they need to secure the border and thus protect America?
The men and women who have taken the solemn oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and leave their own families behind in order to uphold that same oath are regular people and come from all walks of life. They are not the horrible monsters or Nazis that are depicted daily on the radio, television, and the internet. They are just like you, just like me. This is why the following story resonates so much with the American people.
It is a sample of the clear form of understanding that takes place when two individuals from different backgrounds simply take a few minutes to know more about each other. It is what makes our country great and ultimately the world a better place. It is just one of many moments that have taken place in my life. Please walk with me for just a moment.
My flag, my country, my service – they are all things to be proud of. In the past and possibly even in the future, my upbringing and my roots have been questioned. They, too, give me reasons to be proud. I never forget where I started or where I come from. In addition to my wife and kids, my roots are a major part of my motivation.
From time to time, because of my job in the Border Patrol, my nationality has been questioned. This will more than likely continue to happen. I don’t understand why. Yes, I am of Mexican descent, but I am an American nonetheless.
While working at an immigration checkpoint one day, an old white man came through the inspection lane I was on. When he stopped for his inspection, I walked toward the back of his pickup truck, looked through the back window, and visually inspected the entire vehicle.
I didn’t see anything that aroused any suspicion, and so I decided to keep my questions simple.
“Hello, sir, how are you today?”
“I’m fine, young man, can we move this along?”
“Sure thing, sir, mind telling me where you’re headed?”
“I’m going home to San Antonio, not that it’s any of your business.”
I smiled and looked over at the canine handler who was working with me. He signaled that the vehicle was clear.
“Are you an American citizen, sir?”
The old man sighed out loud impatiently and gave me this look of utter disgust.
“Young man, I’m more American than you’ll ever be!” One thought ran through my head immediately: Is this guy serious?
I took a deep breath and decided to spend a few more seconds with the man and give him a bit of a history lesson in regard to my background.
“Maybe so, sir. Who’s to say? May I ask you something else?”
“If it gets me out of here, go right ahead.”
“Did you ever serve in the military, sir?”
“No. I never had to.”
“I never had to either, but I still served 10 years of active duty in the Army. I was also able to deploy during that time. I had to do and see things that I hope my kids never have to experience.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, sir. It is, and after 10 years of military service, you now have me here wearing another green uniform, still serving my country. Funny thing is that I didn’t have to do this either.”
“So you see this as serving your country? How so?”
“Well, sir, you say that you live in San Antonio. Knowing that this checkpoint is here, who do you think will be questioned or looked at should a terrorist ever be encountered in your city? Do you think the media won’t have a field day with us knowing that we are supposed to inspect every vehicle and person that comes through here? Would you not blame us or, should I say, me for not being able to arrest that individual?”
The old man didn’t know what to say. He looked somewhat perplexed.
“Young man. I mean, sir. May I please speak to your supervisor?”
After that question, I was puzzled. I reached for my radio mic and called for a supervisor. I then guided the old man to park his vehicle in the secondary inspection area so that he could be out of the inspection lane and be able to talk to my supervisor.
After a few moments, my supervisor called me over to the secondary area and had another agent cover my lane. I walked over not knowing what to expect.
The old man approached me and extended his hand for a handshake.
“Young man, I just want to apologize for being extremely rude with you. I’ve told your supervisor what a great job you’re doing, and I wanted to personally thank you all for that you do.”
Wow! I hadn’t expected that outcome. I shook his hand, thanked him for his kind words, and wished him a safe trip home.
I guess the little lesson about my background and what we actually do in the Border Patrol worked.
If only it could work on everybody.
This is just one of the many moments of my life that have made me the person I am today.
They are what make me a Proud American.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email HSTodayMag@gtscoalition.com. Our editorial guidelines can be found here.