I've worked for the Patrol for ~10 years and I've spent time in California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

I won't get very specific about where I'm stationed now but anything else is fair game.

We are not the guys in blue at the ports of entry so I can't really answer much about that, we're the guys in green at the checkpoints and between the POEs.


Comments: 650 • Responses: 55  • Date: 

rocknrollskwurl60 karma

If I, As an American, Went to Mexico then tried to enter the US without going through a border crossing and didn't have any ID on me then how hard would it be to convince you that I was American?

BP_Agent69 karma

You'd be brought back to a BP station so we can run your fingerprints and determine your identity.

Potentially you could be charged with attempting to cross the border away from a designated point of entry.

Barfuzio33 karma

That is interesting. What if they aren't in the system? What databases do you have access to? I have never been arrested but I am former military, could you identify me?

BP_Agent55 karma

If we can't prove that you're here illegally than you'll be released since the burden of proof is on us.

You'll be stuck there for quite a while though while we search through every database we can think of.

Barfuzio30 karma

And obviously the individual that is an American will be pointing you in the right direction to help identify him or herself.

BP_Agent44 karma


If you live close by a lot of times we'll let you call friends/family and have them bring your ID from your house. That's usually the easiest way to clear it up.

daigoba6611 karma

since the burden of proof is on us

How does it work? How can you prove that some random person is not a US citizen, especially if they don't have any identification and aren't in any database?

*edit: I think I found part of my answer below: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/22pixq/iama_united_states_border_patrol_agent_amaa/cgp73kp. Basically you can't prove it most of the time anymore. And that could be viewed as a problem.

BP_Agent19 karma

If you're caught actually crossing the border I'm going to send you to go see a judge and you can argue your case to him since crossing the border at a place other than a POE is illegal regardless of your citizenship.

If it's north of the border at a checkpoint or something and you refuse to admit that you're here illegally and I can't prove it with prior apprehensions you'll probably be released.

gybryant7 karma

How long has this been the case? I remember taking a raft across the Rio Grande on a church trip to visit a small Mexican village. Did we break the law?

BP_Agent12 karma

Yea, technically.

But those laws were never enforced back in the day and they're very rarely enforced today.

pie_now3 karma

You'll be stuck there for quite a while though while we search through every database we can think of.

WTF? Are you doing this on gerbil-powered computers? Maybe your agency should contact, oh, maybe, GOOGLE on how to get that down to 25 seconds or less. Ya think?

BP_Agent15 karma

Our primary record system has what appears to be a DOS interface.

Not joking.

throwitout780452 karma

Not anymore (at least at the larger ports, CBPO here on the SWB)

BP_Agent3 karma

Well you can use ATS to get around the awful interface, but TECS and CIS are still outdated pieces of shit.

yourmightyruler56 karma

Do I actually have to answer when you ask if I am citizen of US?

BP_Agent107 karma


And you shouldn't.

statikuz3 karma

And you shouldn't.

Why do you say that you shouldn't? Or are you just pandering to the reddit crowd? :)

BP_Agent31 karma

No pandering.

Nothing good can come from talking to Agents at primary.

as-uswag27 karma

What's your stance on Sheriff Joe?

BP_Agent36 karma

His motivations are good but he does things in such a way that it brings negative publicity to us.

He needs to relax a bit.

Merari0126 karma

Is it true many skeletons of people shot can be found along the border?

BP_Agent68 karma

People die of exposure after getting lost in the desert trying to cross every year.

There are definitely skeletons out there but they weren't shot.

ningrim22 karma

How effective is fencing/wall/barricades at reducing illegal border crossings?

BP_Agent38 karma

The wall is extremely effective.

GeneraLeeStoned16 karma

can you elaborate on this?... like, i know they have ladders in mexico right?

BP_Agent23 karma

It's a lot easier to see people with night vision when they're highlighted by the sky on the top of a wall than to see them crawling through the brush.

The wall isn't a replacement for Agents but it makes it easier to detect crossings and slows them down a little bit to give Agents more time to respond.

truckdrvr22 karma

I am curious what you think is the biggest impediment to your job? Do you need more people, technology, or perhaps policy changes?

BP_Agent36 karma

The policy changes that the Obama Administration pushed through has significantly limited our ability to do our job.

Most people that are arrested are released and that kills morale.

safety_jam15 karma

Wait, if they're arrested and then release back into their country (not the USA), then haven't you done your job? What's the alternative? Aren't your only choices lock them up, kill them, or let them go?

BP_Agent36 karma

No, they're released back into the US.

imbrutall14 karma


BP_Agent29 karma

The administration has drastically increased the required criminal history in order to deport people.

Unless the detainee has a history of violent crime he's going to be taken down to the court and then released with a court date "to be determined later" that will never be determined.

imbrutall10 karma


BP_Agent25 karma

So if that's the case, what's to stop a Mexican family of 15 to cross the border right, then Border Patrol catches them, then since none of them have "violent" criminal histories they're just "released" just like that?!


Is this Obama's doing? Holder? The Administration as a whole? The laws are on the books to deport illegal aliens, are we not enforcing our own laws then?


no-soup-4-You11 karma

If they're released back in the US then why do I keep seeing this stat that Obama will deport more people than any other President in history? Apparently latinos are pretty upset with him.

sonnuvabitch2 karma

Sorry if I don't take the washington times and Lamar Smith seriously. Hispanics hate the deportation numbers and are a major supporter of the Democratic party so I don't know why they would want it inflated.

BP_Agent1 karma

I'll go into detail about the policy changes that caused the inflated numbers then. This is going to be a long one.

Ok, prior to the Obama administration if you were a Mexican caught crossing the border illegally you would generally have two options. You can go see the judge, argue your case, and likely be deported. Or you can chose to admit that you're here illegally, waive your right to see a judge, and go back home that day. This was called a Voluntary Return (VR)

There are multiple reasons why people may chose to VR rather than see a judge. For one, they don't have to sit in jail awaiting a court date which is nice. But most importantly, a VR wasn't counted as a official deportation on their criminal record. If you go see a judge and get an official deportation on your record you were done. You have no chance of ever getting legal status in the United States. VR records are only kept within the Border Patrol and has no effect on any attempts to gain legal status in the future.

Most people took VRs. It was cheaper, easier, and all around better for both the United States Government and the illegal aliens.

The Obama administration took that away. VRs are no longer allowed except in very specific circumstances. Everyone sees a judge. Now, what used to be a VR and not counted as a deport in official statistics are now counted. This is a different way of measuring deportation statistics than we've ever used in our history.

This is how the numbers have skyrocketed despite the fact that there are less people actually leaving the country.

Hispanics hate the deportation numbers and are a major supporter of the Democratic party so I don't know why they would want it inflated.

This is just my opinion but I think there are a few reasons for this. First, I imagine that they consider the hispanic vote to be a given so they're not to worried about them voting republican. Second, I think they was high deportation numbers so they can claim that they're being tough on immigration while they're pushing immigration reform. Third, they're using the backlog that they caused in the courts as a reason to release people.

punchingtables22 karma

2 part question:

1) Do you directly deport people who seek illegal entry?

2) If so, do you ever feel empathetic towards their plight?

BP_Agent42 karma

1) Do you directly deport people who seek illegal entry?


2) If so, do you ever feel empathetic towards their plight?

Sometimes. It can be tough to see kids punished for the actions of their parents.

FerDaLuvaGawd20 karma

I live in San Diego, there is a checkpoint on the I5 north about 40 miles north of the border in Camp Pendleton. They occasionally check cars going through but I always wonder what they're looking for specifically (I know "what" they're looking for but what signs are they looking for in order to stop a suspicious car?). I have a Mexican girlfriend they never stop us or ask us questions just wave us through. EDIT: spelling EDIT2: update edit notes

BP_Agent15 karma

It really just depends on the Agent.

Different people look for different things.

That checkpoint has so much traffic that they waive through almost everyone just so traffic doesn't back up to far.

2feetorless19 karma

How harsh are the guides on the people that hired them to cross?

BP_Agent25 karma

It can be bad.

Assaults, rapes, and extortion are common.

PichinchaV18 karma

How hard is it to get a job with the Border Patrol compared to other federal agencies?

BP_Agent53 karma

Compared to the other alphabet agencies it's significantly easier.

The morale here is low and the turnover is high. We're always looking for more people.

Barfuzio16 karma

What percent of BPA's in your estimation speak spanish?

BP_Agent29 karma

The official number is that 100% of Agents speak spanish. We are all taught spanish at the academy.

In real life though a lot of people, including me, have forgotten quite a bit of what they learned.

I'd still say that over 90% are at least passable.

Fawful_had_fury16 karma

Would it be just as hard to get into Mexico as the other way around?

BP_Agent48 karma

Mexican Border Patrol on their southern border is extremely harsh.

zestay115 karma

Do you feel that it is wrong to have check points in our own country? Since stopping people to check their papers state side is unconstitutional. What are you doing to stop this police state action?

BP_Agent28 karma

US vs Matrinez-Fuerte gives us constitutional authority to operate immigration checkpoints within 100 miles of a land border.

Until the Supreme Court or US Legislators tell me differently I'm going to continue to do the job I was hired to do.

Projectorinski15 karma

Can't wait for this to go the route of Plessy v. Ferguson.

BP_Agent14 karma

I expect that it will.

CaughtInTheNet14 karma

Citizens however are not legally obliged to answer the question: "are you a US citizen?"

BP_Agent10 karma


horatiooo7 karma

didnt a lot of bad people say the same in the past?

BP_Agent11 karma

I don't think you can compare a temporary inconvenience to the kinds of things that you're trying to compare it to.

This isn't slavery here.

Camp_Anaawanna14 karma

Most inventive way you've seen someone try and get thru the boarder?

BP_Agent45 karma

It's not necessarily "inventive," but crossing on jet skis off the coast of San Diego is pretty awesome.

Dreamtrain13 karma

Are you guys aware of the stereotype that caucasian or black officers are cordial and civil towards you but hispanic officers will likely act rude towards mexican-born people passing and sometimes even refuse to speak any spanish at all despite understanding it 100%? Anecdotally I can say this stereotype has held true many times, although of course in the end it is just that, a stereotype. I wonder if the border agents know about this perception mexicans have of the officers..

BP_Agent41 karma

It's pretty accurate.

My hispanic co-workers, many of whom were not born here and had to jump through all the same hoops as everyone else to gain citizenship, tend to have a little extra disdain for the people trying to cheat the system and jump the line that they had to wait in.

JimboFett13 karma

Are there any locations you hope not to be posted near due to cartel violence?

BP_Agent28 karma

Not really.

Cartel violence tends to stay on the south side.


How far are you guys allowed to chase people in the dunes outside of Yuma? I've seen people run up and over those hills and you guys chase them in your awesome trucks but how long before you guys just go "Ah, fuck it"?

BP_Agent28 karma

We can chase them as far as they'll run.

Broly3k812 karma

Im exiting the military in the not very distant future, and have always regarded a US Border Patrol agent as an option. What got you into it? What kind of schooling did you do prior too, if any? Where can I start if I wanted to seriously look into that option?

BP_Agent16 karma

What got you into it?

I wanted to get into Law Enforcement but after my ride-alongs with local cops I realized that I didn't really want to sit in a patrol car all day. I'd rather be out hiking mountains.

What kind of schooling did you do prior too, if any?

I have a B.S. in biology which is completely useless.

Where can I start if I wanted to seriously look into that option?

They post of openings on USAJobs. We have a huge backlog of applicants right now so there probably won't be a new opening for a while.

Broly3k89 karma

Thanks for the answers! With the big draw down happening military wide, and because I know how a good majority of military think, I would expect there to be a big back log. I also expect to not be excepted as there are far better trained applicants then me who will be waiting quite awhile to get an answer. Definitely nice to have the knowledge though. Ill look into it shortly.

BP_Agent9 karma

The military experience alone will give you a decent shot.

E-B-Gb-Ab-Bb11 karma

I don't want this to come off as a loaded question but how prevalent is racism among your colleagues?

BP_Agent26 karma

Equal to or less than the prevalence of racism in society in general.

Over 50% of my station is non-white anyway (not that I'm suggesting that minorities can't be racist.)

Joelovesfood11 karma

How often do you come across children crossing the border?

BP_Agent18 karma

All the time, unfortunately.

DavoinShower-handle9 karma

How's your spanish? Can you pick up on the slang and subtle nuisances of the speakers in that region?

BP_Agent19 karma

My Spanish is awful.

I can do basic questioning and interrogation but anything more in depth than that and I'm going to struggle a bit.

Williamklarsko8 karma

I guess its political but what do you feel of "the wall" between mexico and USA?

How do you think the tv shows illustrate your job?

Last but least, how do feel about the huge amounts of Legal but also illegal immigrants who is already in the US?

BP_Agent20 karma

I guess its political but what do you feel of "the wall" between mexico and USA?

The wall is very effective

How do you think the tv shows illustrate your job?

Border Wars isn't bad I've never seen a good representation in fictional movies or TV shows.

Last but least, how do feel about the huge amounts of Legal but also illegal immigrants who is already in the US?

Legal immigrants are awesome.

Illegal immigrants that crossed of their own free will sound be deported.

Illegal immigrants that were brought here as kids by their parents is a tougher question.

FerDaLuvaGawd7 karma

How much of a problem are the checkpoint trolls who intentionally won't answer questions and are constantly complaining that you're trampling their constitutional rights?

BP_Agent32 karma

I've worked a ton of checkpoint and I've never encountered one.

They're really not much of a problem.

Edit: the biggest problem right now is that our authority in these situations is a little bit fuzzy. We need a few good court cases to clear up what exactly we can and cant do at checkpoints.

_northernlights6 karma

Always wondered. How do you deal with large families coming through, are you more willing to let them go through as apposed to one person, or a couple?

Have you ever had a situation that questioned all faith in humanity!?

BP_Agent30 karma

Families are dealt with the same way as everyone else, although we separate the family from the other detainees so we can keep them all together.

are you more willing to let them go

I don't let anyone go but I would be even less willing with families. Crossing the border illegally is extremely dangerous and it pisses me off when people try to attempt it with small kids.

pluiewolf6 karma

How does it work getting stationed? You spend a couple years in Arizona and then you just randomly end up in Orono, Maine? Or do you fill out some kind of request form?

BP_Agent12 karma

You get assigned a station when you're hired and often times you'll be stuck there your entire career unless you promote up.

It's very difficult to get a transfer to another station.

fishtrap6 karma

Have any suggestions for transgender people who's official documents don't match their physical appearance? I haven't changed my legal gender and my passport really doesn't look like me at this point. I always have a shit time crossing - get questioned etc. It really drives me nuts.

BP_Agent16 karma

If you don't match your ID you're going to get questioned a bit more.

There's really no way around that.

spilger1266 karma

thabks for doing this! very interesting stuff. my question is somewhat personal.

I do a lot of missions work in rural Guatemala. most of the kids there are urged that they CAN live and survive in their home country, so most don't want to make the dangerous journey north. but one of the children of the Guatemalan directors recently was able to get money and a blessing from his parents to head to the states via southern Texas. well, he got caught and has been being held. but, our gov't is now saying if he can be "sponsored" and goes to a court hearing claiming fearful intent (I think?) that he could potentially stay. something seems off here. is this legal? are or people that care about him being pulled around for a quick buck?

edit: grammar and a word

BP_Agent5 karma

He's probably trying to claim asylum but that's pretty unlikely to work coming from a country like Guatemala.

If they're asking you to send money I wouldn't. There are tons of asylum attorneys that work for free and there are tons of scummy immigration lawyers that scam money out of people.

spilger1265 karma

yeah, I felt like asylum was a stretch myself, but it seems like they're letting him try. I'll see if I can find out anything about any of those attorneys. thank you so much for the response!

BP_Agent3 karma

He should have been given a list of attorneys that will represent him for free when he was arrested.

dkitch4 karma

Do border patrol agents actually care about "personal use" amounts of drugs that are legal statewide but not federally?

For example, what would you do if you caught a California resident with a medical marijuana card, with less than an eight of an ounce of marijuana along the California-Mexico border?

What about a Washington resident on the US-Canada border with the same amount (no medical card, because it's not needed in WA)?

BP_Agent6 karma

Some do, some don't.

I'm not going to hassle you about personal use unless you're being a dick.

garrettmcqueen1 karma

I'm constantly going back and forth between Michigan and Ontario, and it would seem really easy to get someone in. Why is the southern border so much more heavily patrolled, in your opinion? Does it have something to do with race?

BP_Agent21 karma

Well there just aren't significant amounts of Canadians attempting to cross illegally into the United States. It's just not worth it to fully staff the northern border in order to stop a few illegal crossings a year when that same manpower could be stopping thousands of crossings at the southern border.