A CBP Air and Marine Operations aircrew from Miami helps evacuate people trapped by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 30, 2017. (CBP photo)

PERSPECTIVE: Looking Behind the Headlines at the Real Border Patrol Agents

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

Not a single day goes by without the ever-vigilant men and women of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) fulfilling their oath of office by protecting our communities, our families and our country in general. All one needs to do is go to CBP.gov and click on the link for newsroom media releases and see for themselves the many events that take place daily throughout our country where sex offenders, gang members, murderers and other criminals are being arrested by CBP’s officers and agents. People are also able to read about the countless narcotics seizures that take place along our southern border and our coastlines.

Add to those stories the countless rescues that CBP officers and agents perform on a daily basis. Yes, these compassionate men and women save lives just about every single day of the week. According to Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan and Chief of the Border Patrol Carla Provost, in fiscal year 2019 the men and women of Border Patrol rescued a total of 4,911 individuals from the inhumane and often deadly conditions in which ruthless smugglers had placed them.

Why bring this up? None of it is new.

The answer is simple: most of these stories, incidents or events never make a single news headline. I challenge you now to click on the link and follow it for a few weeks and see for yourselves how the vast majority of these stories will never come across your television screen with a bold headline.

Please, prove me wrong: I beg you.

It’s as easy as clicking here www.cbp.gov/newsroom/media-releases/all and then comparing the stories you see here to those that actually come across your television or your phone.

I’m even willing to bet that many of you will be surprised to learn that some of those news releases are also in Spanish. Yes! Spanish! Unbelievable isn’t it?

As a matter of fact, the vast majority of these headlines are normally only found on Twitter, on the accounts of leaders within CBP.

What else does this do? Think about it.

It never allows the American people to learn much about the courageous men and women who are placing their lives at risk every single day in order to protect our country.

Am I wrong? What has the American public and people from all over the world learned about Border Patrol agents just this year alone? Shall we go down the list of falsehoods mentioned by individuals who are for “open borders” and don’t agree with any immigration enforcement actions? How about the narrative of concentration camps or that of drinking water from toilets?

Does the regular civilian or business person know the difference between a customs officer, an Air and Marine Operations agent, an ICE agent and a Border Patrol agent?

I’d venture to say that the answer is, “No.”

So in considering this simple fact, would the American people or anyone else in the world ever be allowed to truly see and understand that all these agents and officers are actually members of the very communities that are being protected daily?

For millions of individuals, that answer is more than likely also “no.”

Why bring this up? Why is this topic of having America and the rest of the world get to know the men and women of CBP so important to me?

The reasons might vary from person to person and even within the different agencies.  or me, the answer is simple: these amazing people who wear a badge and have taken an oath to protect our country are our neighbors.

In so many cases, they are the umpires or referees at our kids’ games. They are even the trainers or coaches at our kids’ martial arts class and quite possibly even your personal trainers and coaches.

I personally know agents and officers who are parishioners, school board members and even volunteers at local medical facilities.

They are no different than any other person in the sense that they are in fact someone’s mom, dad, son, daughter, wife, husband, sister or brother. They all are part of our communities, your community. Yet more importantly, they are always someone’s neighbor and they may have a whole lot more in common with you than you might think.

I personally live inside a small neighborhood which holds fewer than 15 houses. For a while now, I’ve been getting together with some of my neighbors on a weekly basis to have some cold beverages, eat some amazing food off the grill and just talk about the “old days” and how things used to be when we were all kids.

Joe, Enrique, Juan, Gabriel and I all grew up around the same time frame, in a similar manner, and quite frankly around the same area even though we didn’t meet each other until a couple of years ago.

We all grew up extremely poor and all of us know what it’s like to do hard labor as a kid, no matter if it had to do with picking crops, concrete work, construction or anything else. We grew up knowing what it was like to not have much. More importantly, we all grew up knowing we had to work hard just to have food on the table and meager clothes to wear. I don’t think any of us knew what medical insurance was when we were kids or even teenagers.

All of us have our own careers and have been able to break the cycle of poverty by being resilient and dedicating ourselves to achieving all those things we could only admire and wish for as kids. All of us can attest to the fact that our kids have far more than anything we could ever wish for when we were their age. We see our sons and daughters and love the fact that they never had to struggle the way we did.

It grants us a sense of pride to enjoy each other’s company and admire the things we’ve accomplished on our own individual journeys through life as we gather to discuss the many similar things we all went through and grew up with.

Sadly, we all have one topic that bothers us as well. A topic which also allows us to reflect on how things were years ago while at the same time forces us to be cognizant of how bad things are now. All five of us spent a great portion of our lives in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and sadly all five of us know exactly how dangerous it is now.

Tamaulipas, Mexico, has been designated as a Travel Advisory Level 4 – “Do not travel” – by the State Department due to crime and kidnapping.

Many of the narcotics seizures that you’ll read about on the CBP link provided earlier will show that much of this illicit traffic comes across our border through the state of Tamaulipas.

All five of us have family there. I for one have not been able to see my family in Mexico for over 10 years now because of all the violence that has erupted in the region.

We keep those memories alive every time we discuss them and I honestly don’t think any of us can wait for the day we are able to once again spend time with our friends and family in Mexico. This is a feeling I believe even transcends culture: we are all of Mexican descent and continue to value our roots through our actions and fond memories of how we grew up. We’ve passed on our beliefs, work ethic, and dreams to our own children.

Our children know where we come from, how we started, and what our aspirations are. They know we work hard to provide the best for them. They also know we never forget our background, our roots, and our desire to always honor them.

Joe, Juan, Enrique and Gabriel all know what I do for a living. They hear or read about the immigration enforcement actions that take place around us. They also hear or read about the spiteful rhetoric that is utilized against CBP. Yet none of these things affect their opinion of me. I’m asked to join them and we continue on with our amazing gatherings and great relationships, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I believe it is a familial bond that has brought us close to one another even though we all have different professions and have faced different challenges through life. Our common upbringing, achievements, goals and even our common concerns are what allows us to gather and enjoy each other’s company. We see each other as one. We are a community that stands together and we are just one example of the greatness of our country and humanity in general.

CBP is composed of thousands of officers and agents. Men and women who work day and night, rain or shine, and have taken a solemn oath to risk their lives for us all. One of them just might be your neighbor. Do yourself a favor and read a bit more about their jobs, their challenges, their achievements and even their shortcomings. You never know – that person may be a lot like you.

The views expressed here are the writers’ 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.

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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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