- In April, Senior Video Correspondent Graham Flanagan spent four days inside the United States Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico.
- Since then, “squalid” conditions at a Border Patrol-run detention center and the revelation of a secret Border Patrol Facebook group have made the US Border Patrol the focus of intense scrutiny.
- During our visit to the Academy, we did not see any training specific to working in detention centres, or caring for migrant children.
- A CBP spokesperson told Business Insider that, “The Academy does not conduct training related to detention officer duties,” adding that, “Once a trainee graduates and arrives at their station … it now becomes the duty and responsibility of their station to further train the new agent on local policies and procedures.”
- Aside from Spanish instruction, most of the training we saw was focused on law-enforcement and physical techniques, which made us question whether the Academy is adequately training future agents for the humanitarian crisis occurring at the border.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Instructor: Close your eyes.Narrator: This…Instructor: Stand by.Narrator: is Border Patrol boot camp.Trainee: United States Border Patrol! Get on the ground!Narrator: Before they serve in the United States Border Patrol …Trainee: Get on the ground! Do it now!Narrator: All trainees have to graduate…Instructor: Fall out!Narrator: From the Border Patrol Academy’s six-month basic-training program.Daniel Harris: From day one, our goal is to make sure that they are prepared to handle anything that they may encounter in the field, no matter what obstacle is thrown at them.Narrator: On a hot week in April, amid an intensifying border crisis, we spent four days inside the Academy, allowing us to observe different classes at various stages of the six-month training program, and to find out if the training is adequately preparing these future Border Patrol agents for what awaits them in the field. During our visit to the Academy in April, most of the training that we saw focused on law enforcement scenarios like this one.Trainee: Drop that gun!Instructor: I’d consolidate him over here if I had to.Narrator: The Border Patrol is a law-enforcement agency, but are these future agents getting the training they need for the humanitarian crisis at the border, where record numbers of migrants, many of them children, cross the border to seek asylum in the United States?Reporter: The nation’s top border official says the migrant crisis has reached a breaking point.Reporter: They’re coming in record numbers.Reporter: At least five migrant children have died in government custody since September.Reporter: As families come here to claim asylum, fleeing violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America.Narrator: After being initially screened at the border, migrants seeking asylum in the US are held in detention centres. Many of these centres are operated by the Border Patrol in conjunction with other government agencies. And their conditions have become the object of intense scrutiny.Reporter: The feds have now moved nearly 300 migrant children out of a Border Patrol facility near El Paso after reports of horrendous conditions.Narrator: In June of 2019, a team of attorneys who visited a Border Patrol-run detention center in Clint, Texas told the Associated Press that 250 children had been detained for over three weeks without adequate food, water, and sanitation.Reporter: Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chicken pox were spreading among the hundreds of children.Narrator: Days after the news about the Clint facility broke, acting US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders tendered his resignation.Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: In that last facility, I was not safe.Narrator: A group of lawmakers visited the facility, including Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who compared the conditions of the detention centres to concentration camps. Although the Border Patrol is tasked with operating detention centres, we didn’t see any training during our visit to the Academy, aside from learning to communicate in Spanish, that was specifically focused on working in the centres. In a statement to Business Insider, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said that “The Border Patrol Academy does not conduct training related to detention officer duties,” adding that, “Once a trainee graduates and arrives at their station, it becomes the duty and responsibility of their station to further train the new agent on local policies and procedures.” When asked if the Academy had any future plans to change its training based on the reports about the detention centres, the CBP spokesperson offered no indication that any such plans exist. So, what kind of training do Border Patrol agents get at the Academy, and how did we get here in the first place? The Border Patrol was established in 1924, with two stations: at the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, and near the Canadian border in Detroit. It’s main objective: combating bootleggers smuggling liquor during Prohibition.Newsreel reporter: Whenever illegal hooch or beer was discovered by the feds, it met the same fate: crack open the kegs and let the contents flow down the drain.David Ham: It was a very bloody time. We lost over 31 officers during that time period. There were times when there were shoot-outs two or three times a day for a whole month.Newsreel reporter: We still like to remember that, once upon a time, Texas had its own president. When we built our Capitol at Austin, we built it big, like the one at Washington. Texas begins where Mexico leaves off, and nowadays, along the whole thousand miles of frontier, the Border Patrol’s on the job, day and night.Narrator: In the 1950s, the number of migrants crossing from Mexico spiked, and the Eisenhower administration responded with an initiative officially known as “Operation Wetback,” named after a racist slur used to describe Mexican migrants. Over 1 million people were deported, and Border Patrol enforcement activities plummeted. That is, until the ’70s. Amid the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico, the number of deportations skyrocketed to the highest levels in decades.Agent: OK units, let’s shut it off. Same positions.Agent: There’s enough to keep us busy for a while.Narrator: Since then, illegal crossings have increased, and the Border Patrol has continued to be scrutinised for allegations of mistreatment toward migrants.Reporter: The US Customs and Border Protection has launched an investigation into a secret Facebook group where thousands of Border Patrol agents posted sexist memes and joked about migrant deaths.Narrator: According to ProPublica, the group had about 9,500 members. Agent: We take all of the posts that were put out today very seriously. These do not represent the thoughts of the men and women of the US Border Patrol.Trainee: I’m a steamroller, baby!Trainees: I’m a steamroller, baby!Narrator: So, who joins the Border Patrol?Trainees: Just a-rolling down the line!Narrator: Today, about 19,000 men and women actively serve in the Border Patrol. Only 5% of the agency is female.Trainee: 34! Agent: 35!Narrator: The biggest gender gap of any agency in the federal government.Trainee: Slowly get on your feet!Narrator: More than half of the 19,000 active Border Patrol Agents are Hispanic.Harris: A lot of our agents who are Hispanic grew up on the Southwest border, so they grew up around Border Patrol agents. We are honored that over half of the Border Patrol agents are a minority, serve as a majority in the Border Patrol. They want to protect and serve the communities where they grew up and where they’re from.Narrator: So, how are Border Patrol agents prepared for the field? Basic training happens here, at the Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico, about 200 miles from the US-Mexico border. Artesia is known for three major exports: refined oil, pecans, and Border Patrol agents. Every year, about 1,000 trainees graduate from the Academy before heading to the field. Before they get to Artesia, incoming trainees meet in El Paso and board a bus that takes them to the Academy.Trainee: I first decided to go in the Marines and, you know, gain some experience, and eventually come into law enforcement.Trainee: I was in the Army. I had a urge to continue my career path. I just wanted something a little bit more different. So I did my research, and Border Patrol was pretty much up that alley to what I was looking for.Trainee: Well, it’s the symbol of excellence, a symbol of pride that people are willing to defend the United States of America in a very thankless, dangerous job. So, those type of people deserve respect, and I want to be one of those types of people.Narrator: The Border Patrol says that thousands more agents are needed in the field, but has historically struggled to recruit and retain them.Instructor: Get off that bus!Instructor: How ’bout you freaking sound off, sir!Instructor: Sound off!Trainee: Yes, sir!Instructor: Sound off!Trainee: Yes, sir!Narrator: For the next few hours, the new class will experience Entry on Duty.Instructor: Stop shaking, already!Narrator: Or EOD.Instructor: Get back here! Stop! What was that?Narrator: Which forces trainees to follow basic commands under extreme psychological stress.Instructor: You had one step to take, and you decided to take a shortcut!Instructor: Louder than me!Trainee: Yes, sir!Instructor: You’re not louder than me yet!Trainee: Yes, sir!Instructor: How you gonna arrest 20 people if you can’t even speak loudly?Luke Farrar: They’re gonna be put under stress. And there’s a reason behind that.Instructor: Why? Why?Farrar: They have to be able to think. They have to be able to receive instruction. They have to be able to make decisions, and then they have to be able to execute those decisions or actions under stress.Instructor: You better get back over there with the rest of them and start over! Hurry up!Farrar: I appreciate they’re here. I understand the sacrifice, their commitment to duty. However …Instructor: Answer your voice!Farrar: You are now a Border Patrol trainee, and you’re gonna start getting indoctrinated into our world and getting prepared for this profession.Instructor: Why are you shaking? Why are you shaking?Instructor: ‘Cause he’s scared! And that’s what’s gonna happen when he gets to the field! He’s gonna be scared!Instructor: He ain’t making it to the field!Instructor: Gonna be scared, gonna shake! You think that’s gonna look good?Trainee: No, sir!Instructor: Think the criminals are gonna like that?Trainee: No, sir!Instructor: They’re gonna look at you and go, “I got him, he’s mine!” But we’ll teach you. We’ll teach you how not to be scared.Trainees: Back up.Instructor: The last I checked, sir, R does not come right before T and in between S! Am I wrong? Why are you staring at me? Huh? Aren’t you an adult?Trainee: Yes, sir. Instructor: My 2 year old can take responsibility, sir! Fix yourself! Go find the S’s!Narrator: Active trainees are allowed to observe EOD, but when an officer caught a group of them laughing and joking, they were quickly corrected.Officer: If that happens again, it will end!Instructor: Day zero! Nothing’s even started yet!Instructor: No one’s forcing you to be here. You’re welcome to leave anytime you’d like.Instructor: Are you looking for a way out?Trainee: No, sir.Instructor: The way out is on the bus!Instructor: You had just decided to look at me. I feel like you’re ready to quit tonight. You ready, sir?Narrator: After this session, we learned that some instructors were addressed about using language that encouraged trainees to quit, even though it was part of the intended stress inoculation.Farrar: We’re not trying to get people to quit. That’s certainly not the intent. Our senior leadership, historically and now, has been supportive of the fact that, yes, absolutely, we need more agents out there on the line getting the job done, but that we don’t need to lower our standards in order to accomplish that.Instructor: You better put that pen away, sir! You make me nervous with that pen! Like you want to stab me with it! Do you want to stab me right now, sir?Trainee: No, sir.Instructor: See how far you get!Narrator: The new trainees are issued uniforms.Instructor: Get out of my face! Hurry up, you!Narrator: But the high stress levels endure.Instructor: Get over there where you belong!Instructor: Fold your d— pants!Trainee: Yes, sir!Instructor: Do they button or do they not button?Trainee: No, sir!Farrar: These periods of stress inoculation or intentional induction of that high stress levels, it goes up, and it goes down.Instructor: Let’s go, hurry up!Farrar: And these things subside.Instructor: There you go. Good teamwork. Exactly what I want to see.Instructor: Start working together! Help each other out!Instructor: Do the right thing when nobody’s looking.Narrator: As the sun begins to set on EOD, the tone from the instructors has obviously started to change.Instructor: We will become brothers and sisters. Trust me when I’m telling you this. You will succeed if you listen to me.Instructor: Everybody’s gotta work together as a team. You want to join the Border Patrol, that’s part of a family. Start acting like it, start helping each other out.Instructor: Only way you people are gonna make it through this Academy is by helping each other out! But if you don’t help and take care of your classmates, you won’t make it, and they won’t make it! Do you understand?Trainees: Yes, sir!Instructor: None of y’all want to go home?Trainees: No, sir!Instructor: Then you better take care of each other.Narrator: The Border Patrol Academy sits on 3,000 acres of rugged terrain, featuring life-size sectional replicas of border fences.Instructor: Rotate!Trainees: Rotate!Narrator: When the trainees graduate, they will leave with 14 different certifications, some learned inside the classroom, but most learned outside. And it all starts with fitness. Trainees spend 178 hours in the physical-techniques department. Since some field agents work on the water, trainees also have to spend time in the pool, where they prepare to jump from high elevations using this, an apparatus known as Jacob’s Ladder, with a vertical drop of 30 feet. If these trainees appear a little uneasy, it’s because they’re about to experience perhaps the most dreaded part of training: OC exposure. OC stands for oleoresin capsicum. More commonly known as pepper spray.Harris: You’ve got to know how you’re going to react if someone attacks you with the same thing. I have had one of my agents sprayed with that stuff by a murder suspect. They have got to know what it’s going to do to them, should it be used against us.Instructor: Stand by.Narrator: After being sprayed…Instructor: Look over here.Narrator: The trainees have to describe vehicles parked hundreds of yards away.Instructor: All right, tell me how many cars do you see.Trainee: Two cars, one white bus.Instructor: You’re gonna have to open your eyes up in order to see. In order to see the suspect, you have to open your eyes up.Trainee: Three!Instructor: No there’s not. You have to open your eyes in order to see.Trainee: Four!Instructor: You’re gonna have to fight through it.Trainee: Two!Instructor: All right, come on, come on.Narrator: The trainee must then confront an assailant.Trainee: US Border Patrol! Get down on the ground! Get down on the ground!Instructor: Good hit!Trainee: Get down on the ground!Narrator: Detain him, and successfully call for backup.Trainee: Kilo 17, tango 30… tango 35.Instructor: 10-4. Backup!Trainee: Come on, Roger.Narrator: Finally, they’re able to wash off the OC. But the pain lingers.Interviewer: So how do you feel now? You seem OK.Trainee: My face is on fire.Trainee: This is probably the worst thing I’ve felt. Not being able to see. I can’t even see for the past 30, 45 minutes. My nose burning and everything. It’s pretty bad.Trainee: I think if we’re putting our suspects out there through the same thing we’re going through, we might as well feel what it feels like just to know how to use the actual tools properly.Instructor: Backup’s on the way. Backup!Trainee: It’s definitely torture, but it’s a good kind of pain.Instructor: Vehicle one through six, go, go, go, go!Narrator: Another major component of training is driving.Radio: Go in, we have a green light. All vehicles are go.Christopher Dooley: When they leave the Academy, most of their day they are going to be operating within a vehicle. That will be their office for the day. They may be out in the desert in some rough terrain. They may be called to pursue a vehicle at high rates of speed.Trainee: Sir, get your hands out of your pockets!Dooley: These students are running through a scenario.Trainee: Get on your knees, sir!Dooley: That trains them to deal with what to do after they perform an offensive driving technique.Narrator: Trainees spend over 130 hours with the firearms department.Instructor: Up!Donna Twyford: While they’re at the Border Patrol Academy, a single trainee will shoot 6,000 rounds of the pistol ammunition and about 10,000 rounds of the rifle. We start very slowly. We just initially give them a firearm, and we say: “OK, look at this weapon. Touch this weapon. There’s no ammunition, there’s no magazine. Let’s take the weapon out of the holster. Let’s start getting acclimated to how this weapon feels.” And then we move on to the precision part. We fire the weapon, and we see where the rounds go. So they’re taking everything that we have taught them, and they’re now putting it together with movement. And that really is the culmination of everything that we’re trying to do here.Instructor: Make sure you guys can get to your magazine pouches. Make sure you can get to your pistol holsters.Narrator: Once the trainees learn how to use firearms …Instructor: Face!Narrator: they then learn when to use them. And more importantly, when not to. This exercise is known as Judgment. Trainees face off with role players who may or not be a threat.Instructor: Face!Trainee: Drop the weapon! Drop the weapon!Narrator: Some role players are armed with weapons, others only with mobile phones. The trainees have to make a split-second decision of whether or not to draw and fire. The trainees apply their skills in a variety of tactical scenarios, such as a hostage situation with an active shooter.Trainee: Hands on the wall, feet apart.Jesus Azua: We get our learning objectives from what the field is telling us they need.Narrator: In this scenario, trainees learn how to interdict a group of drug smugglers trying to cross illegally into the United States.Instructor: Let’s get her done quickly.Azua: We use a lot of role playing, a lot of role players, both from the local area as well as detailed agents and instructors here at the Academy assigned on a rotational basis.Narrator: The hired role players play a huge part in perhaps the most important aspect of training at the Academy. Spanish.Harris: Over 90% of the individuals that we arrest will only speak the Spanish language, or the Spanish language will be their first language.Haydee Lozano: We don’t expect them to be fluent Spanish speakers, but we do expect them to at least be able to have a conversation to communicate with them efficiently and safely, more than anything. That way they are able to safely do their job.Narrator: Trainees spend 182 hours with the Spanish department. While that’s the most time spent in one specific department, it represents less than a fifth of their total curriculum, most of which is focused on law enforcement. What we did not observe during our time in Artesia were any scenarios that specifically involved working in detention centres or caring for children, which is a daily responsibility of some Border Patrol agents working in the field. In regards to how trainees are instructed to work with children, the CBP spokesperson told Business Insider that “The Border Patrol Academy trains and teaches agents about policies and regulations related to the current case precedent that governs children in short term custody.” We asked CBP what level of responsibility the Academy should bear in terms of preparing Border Patrol agents to deal with the current situation at many processing centres. They said, “The Border Patrol Academy has implemented the Medical Emergency Decision Scenarios, or MEDS, into its curriculum.” Lozano: This is a medical response, so they have to approach the injured subject. They have to determine what is wrong with the injured subject. That way they are able to get the subject help as soon as possible.Narrator: This is not a scenario. This footage was shot at the US-Mexico border in El Paso, where Border Patrol agents have to screen hundreds of migrants crossing into the US every day and oversee crowded detention centres where the migrants wait for days and even weeks to be processed. As a new class prepares to graduate, are they ready for what awaits them in the field? On graduation day, friends and family make the trip to Artesia to see their loved ones before they’re deployed.Instructor: Honour Guard, return the colours! Close ranks! March!Agent: Less than 100 years, and we have 128 line-of-duty deaths. That’s more than one a year. That’s too many.Narrator: At the beginning of training, each trainee is issued a silent partner, one of the 128 Border Patrol agents killed in action, represented by a card that they carry with them at all times.Agent: This is what we’re trying to change. The mistakes we’ve made in the field, things that we’ve done wrong. Hopefully nothing ever bad happens to one of your loved ones, but in the case that it does, you’ll always be part of this Border Patrol family.Harris: We’re going to prepare them from day one how to take care of themselves, their partners, the people that they encounter, treat them just like they would want a family member to be treated, and then go home to their families. I want them to look back and say, “Every day I was willing to put my life on the line for this country, and I served admirably, and I made a difference in the protection of America.”Narrator: Meanwhile, boot camp is just beginning for class 1120. That’s the group we first met on the bus from El Paso, and we were on hand for the message that Academy Chief Daniel Harris delivered to the class on day one of their training.Agent: Good afternoon, sir!Trainees: Good afternoon, sir!Harris: Good afternoon, class. My name is Dan Harris Jr., and I am the chief of this, the United States Border Patrol Academy, and there are a few things that I need to tell you that you need to hear directly from me. I promise you, you’re going to have to take someone’s freedom away. And you are going to get that right when you leave here. Let’s hope you don’t ever have to take someone’s life away, but you’re asking me to give you the authority to do both of those things. And let me be crystal clear. If you bring dishonor to the United States Border Patrol, if you bring dishonor to the uniform you are wearing, I’m going to fire you. Is that understood? Trainees: Yes, sir! Harris: Every single class tells me that same thing. There are men and women out there on the street on patrol right now, in the desert, who need you as their backup. They need your help out there right now. I need you to graduate from this academy. But again, nothing will be given to you. I wish the best of luck to all of you. And the next time I talk to you will be day 112. I’ll see you then. On your feet. All yours.
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