November, 1995 | 288th graduation

Few Americans understand the policies that make up the immigration deterrence operations of the US Border Patrol. These mandates are often confusing and can change drastically from one administration to the next, or even within a single legislative term. Furthermore, the media surrounding deterrence policies is heavily based in pro-deterrence, anti-immigrant rhetoric that criminalizes asylum seekers, while news coverage in general consists of Border Patrol talking points that neither match the experiences of the asylum seekers or those living along the southern border.

To understand what deterrence policies are and their actual effects requires lived experience, gut-wrenching self- reflection, and un-embellished storytelling. I’ve experienced the southern border as a Border Patrol agent and as an immigrant rights activist. I knew the border before deterrence policies and after. I’ve witnessed their consequences and the propaganda the Border Patrol and US government use to continue selling the policies as “the only way.” For nearly thirty years, I’ve participated in, watched, and studied these policies and have come to the conclusion that they do not deter anyone from crossing illegally. Instead, these policies have, among other effects, killed tens of thousands of people, separated thousands of families, and criminalized innumerable asylum seekers. These policies violate human rights under the guise of national security with both Republican and Democratic congresses and presidencies being responsible. It’s my belief that these deterrence policies will one day be listed in the history books alongside the US Native genocides, slavery, Japanese Internment, and other US atrocities.

The personal essays included in this series all deal with my experiences related to these policies.

—Jenn Budd

Part 1: “Deterrence Policies of the US Border Patrol”
Part 2: “Outdoor Encampments”

When I was six or seven years old, my mother began teaching me about the evil that humans do. After having me watch PBS documentaries on our old black and white television about the Holocaust or the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, she would always quiz me on what I had learned.

“What would you have done if you were alive during the Holocaust, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s?” she’d ask.

Even at that age, the response was a no-brainer. “I would have helped them!”

“You have blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin,” she’d say. “They would not have come after you. You don’t have to be the one shooting the gun or putting them into the ovens. You could be the one driving the train or building the detention camps or looking the other way as they rounded up Jewish families, Black families, Native families.”

That was how my life started. Her lessons led me to work hard and put myself through college with the hopes of  becoming a civil rights attorney. I wanted to fight for the marginalized, but my childhood had also been filled with violence and emotional abuse because of my mother’s alcoholism. After graduating with honors at the top of my class from Auburn University, I made the choice to push off law school and try to escape my childhood traumas.

I joined the US Border Patrol after they said they would send me to San Diego. The thought of starting my life in a far away city was too enticing. It didn’t hurt that I loved horseback riding, four wheeling, and hiking. From what the agents who acted as recruiters said, it would be an adventure.

In June of 1995, then, at the age of twenty-four, I began working for the agency. I was assigned to the desolate and dangerous high-desert mountains of Campo, California, and knew nothing about migrants, the history of our southern border, or those in green who patrolled it except for what they taught me in the academy. The agency’s deterrence policies, at that time, were less than a year old. Initially, I believed these policies made sense: a wall to prevent cars full of dangerous narcotics from driving through, more agents and resources for the tracking and apprehension of criminal migrants who were trying to avoid inspections at the ports, and military surveillance tools such as scopes, sensors, cameras. All these strategies seemed like common sense solutions.

I became even more ready to do my job during the next four months as my instructors drilled into me that migrants were indeed criminals and drug dealers and rapists, and that all of them were trying to sneak into the US to steal our jobs and live off our welfare programs. They said that migrant children were not normal children like ours, but were junior criminals, maturing faster than our kids because of the poor and violent countries from which they came. We were warned not to treat them as children and instead should consider them as dangerous as the adults we apprehended. They repeatedly said that there were plenty of legal avenues for migrants to apply, but that many simply chose to flagrantly violate our laws.

There was also no need to tell us that we would be expected to target people of color, specifically anyone who appeared to be Mexican. The only language the academy tried to teach us was Spanish, our shooting scenarios were mostly about Spanish-speaking migrants, and our legal classes encouraged us to racially profile people with the justification that the vast majority of those apprehended in the US for illegal entry in the mid 90s were Mexican citizens. The Supreme Court had already decided in three different cases that it was legal for us to racially profile. Whether or not it was ethical or based in racism did not matter to the Court, the agency, or, frankly, to me. Back then, the law was the law in my mind. Furthermore, once in the field at our assigned duty stations, senior training agents taught us the racial slur we used for undocumented migrants that was only known to Border Patrol agents; the one that’s the sound a flashlight makes when it hits someone (i.e., a migrant) in the head. Latino agents used it. Management used it. And at first when I said it, it felt like I was using the N-word, but before too long I was using it freely, too.

Doris Meissner, the then Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner, along with Border Patrol Chiefs and Department of Defense officials who designed the deterrence policies, stated that the new policies would improve the Border Patrol’s public image and agent morale, while also allowing for more funding. The agency admitted that it was impossible to completely seal the US’s southern border, but that deterrence policies would be successful if they could get the apprehensions close to 100%. Meissner further claimed that with common smuggling routes disrupted, migrants would give up and stop crossing or be forced to cross through the more hostile terrains: the dangerous and steep mountains of California, the stunningly barren and hot deserts of Arizona, and the swift moving Rio Grande River of Texas.

In Campo, my fellow agents and I experienced the beginnings of deterrence policies. It took less than a year for many of the migrant crossings to change from the San Diego city limits to the desolate mountains where we worked. Migrants dying while crossing the border in our patrol area was a common occurrence. During the summer, temperatures would reach above 110 degrees Fahrenheit and often led to severe dehydration and heat stroke. In the winter, it snowed and they froze to death. Finding dead migrants was and still is a part of being a Campo agent. It was not an everyday occurrence, but it was not unusual either.

Once former-President Clinton’s wall reached our western patrol area in Tecate, California, and most of San Diego city’s border with Mexico became a militarized war zone with walls and agents, the mountains where I worked became the hot spot for crossing in between the ports. This was the stated intention of Operation Gatekeeper. Commissioner Meissner admitted that migrants would have to see the crossings as more dangerous than staying in their own countries for deterrence policies to work. That meant that many migrants would have to die or be injured. The injury and death of migrants, then, was always a known and accepted outcome of the deterrence policies. This contradicted the training I had received in the academy that saving lives was the agency’s number one priority.


Finding the bodies of migrants became more common for those of us working in those mountains back then. In the heat of the high desert, death by deterrence often started with a headache, diarrhea, and vomiting. Insisting they just needed to rest, groups often left ill members behind with milk jugs of water in hopes they would either recover and give themselves up to us or that we would find them before they died of exposure. Most often we did not find them in time. Instead we would find their corpses with their stomachs sometimes either impossibly swollen from the gasses or completely exploded. In the winter, it was not uncommon to find them naked as people who freeze to death sometimes think they are hot and strip off their clothes. Much of their earthly bodies would then be picked clean in just a few days from the wild animals.

For those of us collecting the bodies, the Border Patrol had given us the tools to see the migrants as less human, as if they were somehow deserving of these horrible deaths. At first, I followed my training and convinced myself that they were criminals, drug dealers, and that they should have entered the legal way. Slowly, I started to understand these were racial stereotypes. The conversations I had with the migrants I apprehended night after night did not match most of what the agency had taught me. The families—moms and dads with elderly parents and young children—began to penetrate my hard green exterior. I couldn’t continue to make the claim that many were criminals when they rarely came back with records.

Most agents I knew joined the agency to protect the country from drugs and criminals, but we rarely ever found any in the large groups of migrants. Even back then, most drugs were coming through the ports of entry by bribing corrupt officials just as they are today. Day after day we apprehended the same groups, the same smugglers, and returned them to Mexico each time hoping that we did not encounter another dead body. Many of my fellow agents who were my closest friends turned to alcohol, drugs, domestic violence, sexual assault, and suicide, while others became corrupt by smuggling migrants and narcotics. I turned inwards and started to question my choices. I started to hate myself, and often struggled with anger that I could not understand. One day I loved being an agent, the next I hated it. I often cycled in between feeling like a hero and spouting the agency’s propaganda to feeling like an abuser and wanting to eat my gun because I knew the policies we enforced caused so much needless death. It was slowly tearing my soul apart.

Although the new deterrence policies did work to prevent migrants from crossing in the city limits of El Paso and San Diego, there was plenty of evidence that they did not work in the desolate and dangerous terrains that I and other agents worked in. Yet, a decrease in the number of crossers within the large border cities meant that the Border Patrol and politicians could claim victory, and deterrence policies would soon spread to every Border Patrol sector.

All Border Patrol agents were and are still taught to destroy life-saving water jugs and food left by migrants on the trails they use. We were trained to chase them into the mountains and deserts, and then when we found them to scream, “LA MIGRA!” This always made them scatter or “bust” as we said and run around in different directions. Sometimes they fell off cliffs. Sometimes they ran into traffic. Sometimes they fell into water and could not swim.

We taught our agents how to get away with causing migrant load vehicles to crash and flip. Out on the desolate dirt roads and highways, trainees were told that if the load vehicles crashed, agents should immediately get on the radio and say that we had terminated the pursuit, that we pulled to the side of the road and turned off our emergency equipment even though we had not. This created a record at dispatch for us to use in court as proof that we were not pursuing even though we were. This is still done today.

With deterrence policies leaving thousands of human beings dead in remote areas and injuring many more, we were told to blame the victims. “They shouldn’t have crossed illegally,” or “Well, they broke the law,” were common statements issued by the agency and politicians on both sides of the aisle. “Do it the legal way,” I exclaimed even as I was starting to understand how we were slowly eliminating the avenues with which to do so via Clinton’s 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (a.k.a. IRA-IRA). This new Act made it easier to deport those who were present in the country without documents. Even those who were documented but had committed minor crimes were now eligible for deportation as well. Deportees with families left in the US were then forced to try and cross in between the ports through the dangerous terrain we now forced them into just to reunite with their US citizen spouses and children.

Some of us complained about all the dead bodies we were finding only to be told to buck up, to quit if we couldn’t hack it, to not go into the deep mountains and deserts where we knew the dead were. Management stopped counting the bodies found by other agencies or hikers. In Campo, our station boss ordered us to stop finding them when immigrant rights groups began complaining. We could no longer go north of Highway 94 where we found most of the dead. If we did happen upon a body, if they did not have identification proving they were from another country, it gave management an excuse not to add them to our totals.

Campo, California’s dangerous terrain

In the late 90s, when we were finding body after body, the agency was struggling to grow its ranks. The more trainees we added to our force, the more attrition we had. Many who had joined the Border Patrol for the same reasons I had years earlier, simply up and quit after realizing that the policies and laws we enforced were the direct cause of so much death. Those who had joined the agency in hopes of protecting their country from criminals, soon found out that the vast majority of those crossing were simply families looking for safety or single adults looking for work. These were the people who were dying because of deterrence policies, not the criminals who had more resources available to them. It was the moms and dads, the little brothers and older sisters, the grandmothers and grandfathers who experienced death by deterrence. There would be no immigration judge or trial by jury to determine their guilt or innocence. The crime of crossing the border without inspection now carried the possibility of a death sentence.

Deterrence policies did not only affect migrants; they were killing agents too. To deal with agent suicides, substance abuse, depression, and the horrible attrition rates deterrence policies were creating among the agents, the Border Patrol developed BORSTAR or Border Patrol’s Search and Rescue Teams. This was and still is a voluntary assignment that allows agents to focus on rescuing migrants in distress. Agents received special training in first aid and other life-saving techniques. The old way of conducting rescues by hiking and walking in the migrants’ footsteps by every agent was replaced with GPS coordinates and helicopters that could immediately deliver a small group of trained agents to the side of the injured migrants.

Using a specialized unit such as BORSTAR to rescue and save the lives of migrants allowed for less agents to be exposed to the brutal consequences of deterrence policies. New agents and trainees encountered these scenes less often and mostly found themselves sitting on the line watching the newest wall being built. Agents working in the field began relying more on sensors and cameras than the sign-cutting and tracking that I and my classmates had been trained to do. They spent less time walking the dangerous paths that many migrants were forced to take, less time stuck on the top of a mountain talking with those they just apprehended, less time listening to why one would take such a dangerous journey.

BORSTAR is not about finding the distressed or the dead. It is about getting photos and videos of rescued migrants in order to broadcast it on social media and show the Border Patrol as humanitarians. After we chased them into the dangerous terrain, after we pushed them up into the snowy mountains as the policies required of us, management began giving those of us doing the rescues medals and calling us heroes. They made sure our pictures were in the paper and on the local news. Our families and communities were proud of our actions, because the propaganda being spewed by the agency and politicians was that “these people” were dangerous criminals and that we were the heroes risking our lives to save them.

Accommodation for putting out a fire that was started because of deterrence policies

In July of 1998, I was assigned to Indio, California, for a month-long mandatory detail as the migrants had moved to crossing the desolate deserts of El Centro and Calexico. Jacob, my best friend from Campo Station, went with me. We figured if we were forced to do a detail, we might as well go together. We had worked the I-8 checkpoint for many years together arresting smuggler after smuggler. We trusted each other not to let the pursuits go too far. When Jacob was a trainee, he specifically requested me as a training officer because he had heard that I knew how to conduct pursuits safely. I trained him opposite of how I was trained; neither of us ever intentionally made the cars crash and then lied about it. Catching a load vehicle was not worth a life, I told him. Ultimately, though, this month-long detail would teach us the truth about our deterrence policies, and would start me down the road of accountability.

I do not remember how many dead bodies we encountered, but I recall it as the deadliest month I ever experienced in the agency. An entire group jumped off the northbound trains as I watched and called over the radio for Jacob to give chase. Within a few hours, the entire group had succumbed to the heat. That night, I watched my best friend drown his pain in Long Island iced teas at the hotel’s bar. A scene that would become a nightly experience for him. Then, a few days before we were to return to Campo, we pulled up on the agents working the midnight shift trying to locate the body parts of a migrant who had been hit and dragged by a semi truck. Jacob joked with the guys as we walked the blood soaked road pointing out this part and that one. Back in our service sedan, though, he asked me to stop at the little convenience store. He downed beer after beer as I smoked, staring out at the sand dunes without saying a word because there was no need. The man I knew was starting to fade because of all the violence, alcohol, and denial. Jacob became a serious alcoholic and later an opiate addict because of a serious car wreck. He was eventually fired by the agency.

Understanding what my job really was about, I took my anger and frustration out in the field. I became more aggressive and began taking more risks to my own safety. Risks like getting too close to car fires and chasing migrants on dangerous dirt roads that often came with the label of “outstanding” and included awards, promotions, and bonuses. I was a hero, they said, yet I did not feel like one. The spring before 9/11, I was selected for a position as a San Diego Sector headquarters intelligence agent. I was dealing with suicidal ideation and knew that I needed to leave the field, but I could not ask for help without losing my job. From my position at sector intelligence, I finally confronted the corruption that I knew was going on at my station in Campo. From both years of interviewing drug smugglers I’d apprehended and intelligence I received from the DEA and the California Highway Patrol, I knew all the evidence pointed to the boss of the station as being the one who was organizing the smuggling. He changed our operations at the checkpoint and how we deployed to the field to keep us away from his loads.

To suggest that such a high-ranking agent was corrupt could be a career killer in the agency. We bled green. It didn’t take long for me to understand the full meaning of this saying. Ratting on a corrupt agent was not just about that one bad apple, it was and is still seen as a crime against the entire agency. Blowing the whistle had earned me a midnight shift on a stationary spot, a punishment for someone of my rank that also came with a serious attempt on my life. After I escaped the automatic weapon fire that landed just outside my driver’s side door that night, the corrupt boss showed up at three a.m., right before I returned to the station, and warned me that they wouldn’t miss next time.

“Have you learned your lesson?” he asked.

San Diego Sector Headquarters offered me a promotion to supervisory position in order keep my mouth shut about his smuggling. That was a line, I could not cross. Promotions to shut up always came with more demands to cover up or look the other way. In my mind, that was akin to taking bribes and working for the cartel. I declined and was forced to turn in my gun and badge. I left disgusted with the agency I had once been willing to give so much of myself to. The Border Patrol was never going to be what they had claimed they were about. The lessons in the academy were just propaganda that I had ingested eagerly. “Honor First” was a lie. I could no longer work with agents who I knew were smuggling migrants and narcotics, who had sexually assaulted migrants they apprehended, who had sexually assaulted other female agents, who were abusing their wives. I had to leave.

The next fourteen years were spent trying to ignore all I had seen and done. The further I got from my life in the Border Patrol, the less I recognized myself. I could not shake the memories of my cruelness and blamed the agency. A PTSD diagnosis and deep trauma followed as my suicidal ideations became all encompassing. In the Border Patrol, this is seen as a weakness and is something that shames agents. Even though I was no longer an agent, I felt immense shame as my mental health declined.


Although the 9/11 terrorist attacks reorganized our immigration agencies and created Customs and Border Protection, little changed about the Border Patrol culture except they could now excuse all their brutal policies and actions with the threat of another possible attack. The National Border Patrol Council, the agency’s union, began working with anti-immigrant hate groups like the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, Numbers USA, and others. It was the union that spread the racist disinformation and talking points about migrants being “invaders” that we hear agents spewing today. While the demographics of migrants crossing in between the ports was changing from the temporary workers I used to apprehend to more asylum-seeking families, the Border Patrol and its union continued to frame all migrants as “invaders and criminals” and began teaching agents about replacement theory. Union leaders began appearing on right-wing media outlets to further spread their disinformation and lies about most of those who were crossing our southern border.

Vice President of National Border Patrol Council Art del Cueto at FAIR conference

In 2014, the Obama Administration began using state Child Protective Services in conjunction with the Border Patrol to take the newborns of asylum-seeking mothers. These babies were born in custody while on US soil and by law were US citizens. Newborns were to be placed with family in the US while the undocumented mother was deported or removed. Unaccompanied children were held in cages that would be used by the Trump Administration years later when then-President Obama began taking thousands of kids from asylum-seeking parents. This was in conjunction with CBP metering and closing most of the legal ways to cross at the ports.

In 2015, I could not outrun my past any longer. For over a decade I tried everything from counseling to meditation to medication, all in order to try to understand why I hated myself so much. I was tired and wanted my brain to stop remembering, to stop dreaming, to stop reliving the life I’d once lived. My suicide attempt in February of that year caused me to lose half of my blood, to spend a week in the Intensive Care Unit and another two full weeks in the mental health ward.

Hitting bottom, almost losing my life, forced me to confront my own actions as an agent. I could see that my trauma was tied to the trauma I used to dish out and justify. My mental anguish was because I had become an oppressor, a racist, a xenophobe hired by the US government to oppress marginalized people the government was looking to scapegoat. This realization required me to take responsibility for my actions. I once claimed that I had not participated in the separations of families or targeting of pregnant women. It was perhaps not as explicit as today’s policies are, but I realize now that I too am guilty. I have separated families. I have sent pregnant women back to Mexico without even processing them. I cannot point my fingers at today’s agents without pointing at myself.

In the midst of all this came the Trump Administration.

The Border Patrol management approved and encouraged Trump’s hatred of certain migrants that he claimed came from “shithole countries.” Deterrence tactics like that of slow-walking asylum-processing cases were commonly used by agents to punish those who crossed in between the ports and then exercised their right to claim asylum. This was another unwritten policy that was taught in the field that agents from Texas to California admitted to doing. “We hope they call home and tell their relatives not to come,” an agent in El Paso said to me.

This kept asylum seeking families in custody longer, weeks even, with no showers or beds. Stories of rotten food, being kept outdoors in animal pens, crammed into cells so overcrowded that over a hundred people were expected to share one toilet were a daily occurrence. Asylum seekers were denied medical care and had their medicine thrown out. Documents needed to prove their asylum cases and even family photos were often thrown in the trash. Most were never allowed to even approach the ports and request asylum. When families were lucky enough to be released from Border Patrol custody into the US to wait for their hearings after passing inspections, they and their children were emaciated, sick, and mentally traumatized. I witnessed this countless times as a volunteer at migrant shelters.

In 2018, the Trump Administration changed previous policies of not holding pregnant women in custody for extended periods due to simple immigration violations. In 2017 and 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement alone reported twenty-eight miscarriages for women who were in custody. In fact, migrant miscarriages just about doubled under the Trump Administration. Mothers and their unborn babies have also died from falling off the thirty-foot border wall, which is another deadly deterrence policy that does little to stop people from crossing. Some mothers end up giving birth in the disgustingly filthy Border Patrol cells. One woman gave birth in her pants as she was standing in a holding cell with others looking on because agents did not care that she was in need of medical help.

While I knew that the US had a long history of forced sterilizations of Indigenous peoples and people of color, I was still shocked to hear that in 2020 over forty women in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody were forced, coerced, and misled into having sterilization procedures. There are numerous stories of pregnant women in Border Patrol custody who reported having complications but were ignored by agents, and those mothers subsequently miscarried. Pregnant women are often shackled with chains and handcuffs causing some to go into premature labor resulting in miscarriages. Many migrant mothers-to-be report losing significant amounts of weight while being held in custody.

When I heard that the Trump Administration was intentionally targeting asylum-seeking families for child separation simply for crossing the border without inspection, I finally spoke up as an ex-agent. I told agents they must not separate families. Many years of being away from the Border Patrol, a few years of intensive therapy, listening to migrants and the brutality with which my former agency and I had treated them had awakened me to the truth that I could no longer ignore: the policies of deterrence are crimes against humanity. To separate families, asylum-seeking families, was a direct violation of the United Nations Refugee Act Protocol that the US ratified on November 1, 1968. It also violated former President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 Refugee Act. Regardless of what the law was, this was against my own core values, my morals, and my ethics, and I was no longer afraid to say it.

From the lessons my mother had taught me so many years ago, I knew how soldiers took the children from their parents in Drancy, France. This was done to force parents to do what a handful of soldiers ordered them to do. The soldiers knew what those in the Trump Administration and the Border Patrol knew about taking people’s kids; they knew they could get parents to cooperate with whatever they wanted if they thought they would get to see their kids again. They knew they would sign their own deportation papers.

Then there were the children left to die in Border Patrol custody like Carlos, a sixteen year old boy left dead in a Border Patrol processing cell for over four hours. Or two-year-old Wilmer, who died in custody of a fever. Or Juan, a sixteen-year-old, who also died of a fever in custody. Or Felipe, who died of a cold and fever in custody at the age of eight. Or Jakelin, a seven-year-old girl, who died in custody of sepsis shock. These deaths resulted in little more than Border Patrol chiefs, who claimed their motto was “Honor First,” to shrug their shoulders and note that there must be consequences.


In August of 2022, Associate Professor Marni Lafleur invited me to see her exhibit documenting reported deaths of migrants in California. I eagerly accepted. Maps of migrants who died from deterrence policies in Arizona have existed for a number of years now, but California and Texas are harder to find. As I rounded the corner to where students were continuing to add new “toe tags,” I became dizzy with the realization that some of those bodies were found by me.

I walked up and stared close at the area of the map I knew was my former patrol area. The flashbacks, the memories, the smells all came back to me. I reached out and touched the tags of Campo. Turning to look at Imperial County, I remembered my month-long detail at the Salton Sea checkpoints with Jacob. I could still see the group as it jumped off the train I was inspecting and remembered how they ran west across the barren desert to escape me.

Officially, the Border Patrol estimates the total deaths caused by deterrence policies to be over ten thousand. I and other experts agree that the number is at least three times larger, perhaps even ten times larger. It is estimated that BORSTAR only responds to about 37% of rescue calls. It is not known how many have died who could not call for help. This means the numbers of deaths caused by deterrence policies are significantly higher than the federal government is willing to acknowledge.

University of San Diego, Associate Professor of Anthropology Marni LaFleur’s Hostile Terrain 94: California.
These are known deaths for San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Arizona migrant deaths charted by Humane Borders.

Currently, the Border Patrol is bringing deterrence policies to our northern border. Already, families have frozen to death. How long before there are hundreds, thousands of bodies spread across the northern border as they are on the southern one? How long before the Border Patrol is pursuing cars, making them crash and killing locals just to check papers? How long until northern residents are leaving food, water, and clothes for asylum-seeking families? How long before they kettle them into the most dangerous areas to cross, further increasing the likelihood of their deaths to exposure while claiming the agents chasing them are heroes?


When I was young, my father told me a story about when his Alabama high school integrated. He said it made him sad to see that no one would even sit at the same lunch table as the handful of new Black students. I asked him if he sat with them to make them feel better, to welcome them, but of course he did not. To do so would have caused his classmates to attack him. I recall judging him for that, for not being brave enough to say something, to do something, though I did at least recognize that he wasn’t donning a white robe and pointed hat.

I, however, did wear a sort of outfit, a uniform. Granted, I at first didn’t understand the system when I joined, that deterrence policies required deaths and serious injuries to occur, that I would become an oppressor, a body collector. It took time to understand that the Border Patrol was/is lying when they say that asylum seekers are all criminals, that this is about national security, that much of what they teach agents in the academy is anti-immigrant propaganda based in white supremacy and racism.

But it was my choice to stay after I knew about all of this, about the late night pursuits and how we made them crash. I didn’t leave after the first dead body nor for many afterward. The racist words and brutality I witnessed on a daily basis was always thrown over my mental walls, so that I did not have to dwell upon them until that day when I could no longer ignore them, until that day when my walls could not contain my memories.

Even after I understood, I chose to stay.

For six years I hunted human beings and supported the policies that sent tens of thousands to their deaths, that injured many more, that killed innocents and took asylum-seeking parents from their children and continue to do so under the Biden Administration.

Six-year-old Jenn was wrong. I would not have stood up when they started rounding up Jewish families, Black families, Native families. I know that because I was one of the ones who chose to round up Brown families.

Jenn Budd

Jenn was a Senior Patrol Agent with the U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego and an intelligence agent at San Diego Sector Headquarters from 1995 to 2001 when she resigned in protest due to the rampant corruption and brutality she witnessed on a daily basis. Her memoir, Against the Wall, was a finalist in the 2023 Triangle Publisher’s Randy Shilts Award and received an honorable mention in the L.A. Book Festival in 2023. She is often interviewed for outlets such as The New York Times, Newsweek, The Guardian, Washington Post, NPR, Telemundo, MSNBC, and many more. She has recently started a new website to document and track Border Patrol brutality called Border Patrol Watch.

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