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.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) recently stated that the Trump administration is running “concentration camps” at our southern border. Since that moment, individuals from both sides of the aisle have come out either defending her comments or demanding an apology from her and all those who have chosen to stand by her side.
It’s important to note that regardless of administration, whether it be Republican or Democratic, anything having to do with the apprehension and processing of individuals entering our country illegally ends up being a matter of the United States Border Patrol.
The courageous men and women in Border Patrol are in fact regular people like you, your neighbors, your relatives, your friends and even your co-workers. They have children who attend school, go to parties, and play in the park just like your kids or your young relatives. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it should be understood that these same kids all eventually end up listening to or reading the comments being made about our current border crisis and immigration issue.
By now, you’ve made the connection that although it is the president who is being targeted by these comments, it is in fact the agents and their families who are ultimately being pinned as the monsters of this narrative. Sadly, the people making these comments either don’t understand the consequences of their words or just don’t care – especially since we are kicking off a presidential election cycle. Dirty politics seems to be all that matters at this juncture.
Now back to AOC’s statement from June 17: “The U.S. is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are,” she said.
Being an Army veteran who visited the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, I know exactly what she meant the moment I heard it.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) took her statement even further with his own assertion on Twitter, “One of the lessons from the Holocaust is ‘Never Again’ – not only to mass murder, but also to the dehumanization of people, violations of basic rights, and assaults on our common morality.”
What does this all mean to the person who has always connected the terms “concentration camps” and “never again” to the horrible atrocities committed by Nazis in the late 1930s and early 1940s? What images pour into one’s mind the moment these comments are heard?
Are the men and women in Border Patrol truly committing these same horrible crimes at our southern border? Furthermore, for the purpose of this particular column, at what age do our children learn about World War II or the Holocaust?
Some of the images that came to my mind immediately were the gas chambers, huge furnaces, mass gravesites and the intentional starvation of millions of Jews. Was it truly possible that these elected officials, media pundits, and even some famous actors were depicting our men and women in green as doing all these things to the masses of illegal immigrants waiting to be processed at the Border Patrol facilities?
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and reading online. I was shocked by the imagery that had immediately flooded my mind with regards to these comments. Lastly, I was floored because I couldn’t stop seeing our agents rescuing people every day at the border and giving away their own water and food, and caring for the wounded or sick illegal immigrants they encounter every day and every night. I just could not believe that these individuals who I consider to be my own brothers and sisters were being accused of these horrific crimes.
Then something else happened. I remembered my daughter and it terrified me. The realization of how these comments would now affect my own children shook me to the core. I say this because my 16-year-old daughter has been a victim of bullying for the past three years already. She has been shunned and attacked verbally by many of her own classmates and even some of the teachers at her school. I realized immediately that as I was listening to AOC make these comments and reading about other elected officials support her, my daughter was once again going to hear about this from other kids her age.
There may be some that don’t believe this to be possible so I will ask you to stop and think – consider at what age your own kids began to learn about the Holocaust. My daughter learned about it at the tender age of 12 and, even now at her age, she refers to those atrocities the moment she hears the words “concentration camps” and “never again.”
I became nervous and fearful for what could possibly be said to my daughter. For the past three years I’ve had to have numerous conversations with her explaining our immigration issues and how it is that I actually do my job on a daily basis. I kept wondering about all the other agents who might have younger kids who had already learned about the Holocaust and the crimes committed against humanity.
What of their sons and daughters? Would they have to explain themselves to their kids just as I’ve done with mine hundreds of times?
More importantly, how would a Border Patrol agent’s child react upon being told by others that mom or dad are these horrible monsters? Would that child be equipped and strong enough to simply ignore the comments until the parent could set things straight at home?
These are all frightening thoughts for any parent to have.
Add to these thoughts an exhausting 10-hour shift of seeing hundreds of illegal immigrants at the facility you work in or out in the field in temperatures over 100 degrees. Add a countless amount of mothers and fathers telling the agent that their child is sick and needs medical attention. Add being in a facility that can only hold 300 detainees, but is currently holding over 1,200 people – all waiting to be processed and released because of the immigration loopholes that brought them here in the first place.
More so, add having just rescued a mother and child from drowning in the Rio Grande river while they were trying to enter the country illegally. Caring for an infant child after being stung by a swarm of bees in the high brush at the area where they entered the country illegally. Add the memory of finding a decomposing dead individual who was left behind by the ruthless smuggler because of an injury or exhaustion. Add the memory of walking up on a dead toddler by the river who had been left behind by the parent.
A Border Patrol agent should be going home at the end of shift to decompress and leave all these matters behind at the workplace. Those things will be waiting for the agent again tomorrow. There will be another daring rescue, another small caravan of over 1,000 individuals to deal with and try to fit into an already overcrowded facility. There will be another set of individuals or kids requiring medical attention, which the agents will tend to.
But now, with comments such as these, the Border Patrol agent must go home and hear about how their families have also heard those comments depicting mom or dad as a murderer of kids and their parents. How mom or dad are running gas chambers to kill all the illegal immigrants they encounter daily. How mom or dad are starving all these people every day.
Does the agent decompress at all? Can the agent truly leave work at work? How? Our Border Patrol agents now have to explain all these things to their kids and help them understand why people are being pinned against them. As parents, we are superheroes in the eyes of our kids. Now this perception must be defended daily against these vile comments.
No, we don’t live in a perfect world – much less in a perfect society. We grow up believing our parents are the greatest beings on the planet. Nobody raised us with the idea that one day we would walk into our own home to be seen as monsters by our loved ones. So why should we start now?
So to all those who insist on calling our agents the worst names possible, please, I beg you: Stop telling their kids that mom or dad is a monster.
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.