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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

PERSPECTIVE: Giving Thanks for the CBP Agents and Officers Who Give Back

This piece represents the views of the author and not U.S. Customs and Border Protection or the Department of Homeland Security

Are there angels among us? With 2019 now entering the holiday season it might be tough to acknowledge or even comprehend such a question when it comes to the men and women working in Customs and Border Protection.

This year has been a tumultuous one with spiteful rhetoric stemming from some in the mainstream media, people in Hollywood and even some politicians. Rhetoric that was utilized to vilify those individuals giving their all to secure our borders and to rid our communities of criminals who entered illegally and have made their way farther into the country.

Whether those men and women wear a uniform that is green, blue, tan, or work in plain clothes, that hateful rhetoric has affected their lives in one way or another. The sanctity of their homes has been violated and a fear has sadly set in that has made many caution the proud declaration of working for the agency.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard agents and officers around me saying that they were now instructing their kids not to speak of where mom or dad worked. They did so because they now feared the safety of their own kids and even their spouses.

How did we come to this? How do we get out of this mindset that doesn’t allow us to express our pride for serving our country, our communities, our friends and neighbors?

Should we not have pride for covering our partner’s back while on patrol? For keeping drugs from reaching our communities? For apprehending a sex offender or a murderer who may end up committing a similar crime in someone else’s community?

What do we tell our kids when their schools have Career Day and they want mom or dad to attend class in uniform? Do we let them down and say that it’s for their own safety? How can we even explain that answer when we already tell them we serve our country by protecting the people in it?

These are daunting questions and concerns expressed to me by so many officers and agents. Some I know and some I’ve never had the honor of meeting, but they still find a way of reaching out to me via social media. These are the same questions I ponder daily because my own family has been impacted by the negative depiction of my chosen career.

The simple yet extremely tough answer is yes: We should be proud of the oath we’ve taken. The very oath that guides us to give everything we have within us to protect our country and, yes, there are angels among us.

Please allow me to elaborate why.

The men and women in CBP do far more than apprehend individuals and seize illegal contraband. They work with local law enforcement agencies for the greater good. They save lives daily but, more importantly, they provide hope.

Rest assured that there isn’t a single day in the week when they are not doing something good with and for the communities they have sworn to protect. More so, they do amazing things for each other as agents and officers who at times also find themselves in need of a helping hand.  Like any family, we may not always agree with each other on certain things, but at the end of the shift we’re still a family.

These officers and agents volunteer – yes, volunteer to engage in programs that are designed to reach out to our local schools in order to relay a positive message to the students. Schools with kids from elementary all the way to their senior year of high school.

Amazing programs such as “Stand Up,” which is designed to inform students of the dangers of bullying and for the victims to know they are not alone, that there is a system in place with people who are dedicated to helping them through such horrible ordeals. All our kids must be made aware of the support networks that exist for their protection. That they should never feel as though they are all alone in these circumstances.

Explorer programs also exist throughout the country where officers and agents alike train and mentor kids on what CBP is all about. The kids are able to learn law enforcement tactics and actually compete with other schools. This more than anything else is a mentoring program and all the kids end up knowing the great feeling of doing some form of community service for the greater good. Some end the program during their senior year of high school and eventually go on to raising their hands and taking the very oath the men and women of CBP have already taken.

Scholarship programs known as “Head of the Class” also exist and are designed for school counselors to highlight student successes. This ultimately allows local businesses and CBP to work together toward rewarding the selected students with a small scholarship that can help with some of their school expenses as they move on to obtain a higher education. Having grown up as a poor migrant worker, I can personally attest to the daunting feeling of not being able to pay for a college education. A feeling that can ultimately discourage some to not even attempt to continue their pursuit of a specialized degree. A feeling that definitely has the potential of discouraging dreams.

The officers and agents of CBP also come together and campaign to donate food and water to members of the community who are experiencing tough times or may be less fortunate than others. This is normally a campaign that lasts a couple of months and, I must say, the amazing men and women of CBP come through in a big way. They donate huge amounts of canned food and cases of water so that our local food banks can then distribute to all those in need. Events are held where the officers and agents reach out to the community and ask them to join in this magnificent endeavor. All in the name of doing something great for others.

These officers, these agents, all have been vilified this year in a manner that has placed their own families at risk. So why do they volunteer to work in these programs? Why do they spend so much of their own personal time working on these programs and creating others that can further enhance their relationship with the communities they serve?

They do so because underneath the badge they wear a huge heart. A heart that tells them they can’t simply do good things for each other, they must also do them for the nation they protect.

You would be amazed how often these men and women come together to help an officer or an agent in need. Something as simple as a bouquet of flowers when a baby is born or a small donation when a loved one is lost and they wish to do more than just “be there for each other.”

Endearing actions that allow family members to visit an officer or an agent who has been diagnosed with cancer because they may be undergoing treatment at facilities away from home. The outpour of support is something that would make any person cry tears of gratitude, of gratefulness, of pride.

Great deeds like the one initiated by CBP Officer Dan Benavidez, who somehow got it in his mind to install and raise a flagpole at the home of a fallen officer or agent and even for local law enforcement. A flagpole adorned with the beautiful “Old Glory” that will forever symbolize the fallen’s oath to stand watch over our country, our community, our family.

I am humbled to say that I’ve been the recipient of some of these great deeds. A few months back we were hit with a bad storm that flooded our home along with many others. There are agents like Bobby Silva and Abigail Conde who quickly gathered the “troops” and figured out a way to help out.

There are organizations such as the Border Patrol Foundation and the Border Patrol Agent Family Network who hold charitable events for the support of agents and former agents as well as other law enforcement personnel.

These are all just a few of the actions taken by the men and women of CBP and their family members. Actions that would allow a person to see a glimmer of hope.

Sometimes, that’s all one needs: a small flicker of light that lets us know things will be OK. A reason to take that next step forward.

A simple, kind gesture that will remind us, if just for one moment, that there are amazing people out there doing amazing things.

The smallest proof of evidence that there are angels among us who have taken an oath to give their ALL for me and you. To them, I am eternally grateful. Thank you ALL.

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.

PERSPECTIVE: The Oath That Molds the Border Patrol Agent

Sergio A. Tinoco
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. Sergio A. Tinoco was born and raised in Rio Grande Valley, commonly known to them as RGV. As a child, he had gone through many struggles. Having to come up with a big decision to leave his family behind at such a young age, Sergio began to live a dangerous life in the battlefield with the US Army. Between the Army and the DHS, he has worked in government service for over twenty years. He earned a master’s degree in organizational management. His wife, also a military veteran, works for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Together, they strive to provide greater opportunities and aspirations to their kids.

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