(Border Echo Magazine was invited by the Border Patrol to take part in a 7 week academy that details most of the duties that the agency is responsible for. The first class detailed the history of the agency. The following is report from the second week.)
Day 2 of the Border Patrol Citizens Academy took place on Wednesday, February 29, 2012. The class took place in two parts. The first was spent in a classroom disscusing citizenship, immigration, and the laws that define them. The second was a field trip to the Border Patrol checkpoint located on I-19 just after Chavez Siding Rd.
The classroom portion of Day 2 was lead by BP Agent R. Bean, who managed to give a fun, energetic, and informative incite into some of what Border Patrol agents are required to know and do on a daily basis. Much of the dicussion was dedicated to U.S. Citizenship and what it takes to become one. It turns out to be much more complicted than many might think. Of course anyone born in the U.S. or any of it’s territories is automatically a United States Citizen, or USC, but what about those born outside the U.S. who’s parents are citizens, or what if one parent is a citizen and the other is not? BP agents spend months in the academy, located in Artesia, New Mexico, learning all the different exceptions and requirments of citizenship. Agents are required to follow a complicated system of charts and dates to determine whether or not an individual in question is, or is not a U.S. citizen.
The discussion also had a focus on immigration and naturalization. Bean crammed months of learning into less than two hours, explaining the laws centered around immigration, and what is required of an individual to enter the U.S. legally, as well as what it takes to become a naturalized citizen. According to Bean, the test that individuals are required to pass in order to become citizens is so difficult that even a born and bread United States citizen could have trouble passing it. Fortunately for many the test can be written or oral and is administered in whatever language the individual requires.
After the classroom portion of Day 2 was completed, everyone was invited to visit the Border Patrol checkpoint located on I-19 just after the Chavez Siding exit. The air was filled the smell of diesel fuel and the loud roar of semi-trucks as they passed through heading north. The citizens academy group was given a tour of the large, yet portable facility and shown part of what agents who are stationed at the checkpoint go through on a daily basis. Even a K-9 demonstration was given, showing the group what happens when a dog picks up on the odor of drugs, smuggled people or other contraband.
For the demonstration, a very small amount of narcotics was placed in a vehicle for one of the agents to drive through the checkpoint to see if the dog would pick up on it. The group watched tentatively as the small car came near and Donja, the dog, approached it. Immediately Donja ran to the back, her respiration increasing and her entire behaviour transforming in an instant. The dog focused in on the trunk and sniffed around. Once she was sure she had found contraband, Donja obediently sat awaiting her reward. Donja’s handler, Thomas Hammond, quickly removed a short, stuffed leather sleeve and gave it to the dog. The two engaged in a match of tug of war, each yanking and pulling as they played. Donja had earned her reward. It was explained how sensative a dogs nose is, and how it doesn’t just pick on one odor, it picks up on several and no matter what is used in an attempt to mask the smell of whatever narcotics are being smuggled, the dog can pick that odor out and focus in on it. And once it finds what it’s looking for, it is rewarded with a play session with its handler.
The tour moved on to the trailer where agents monitor the area surrounding the checkpoint so that they always know what is going on around them. From there the group was taken to secondary, where vehicles are directed if an agent becomes suspicious or if one of the dogs picks up a scent. There the process and procedures that agents must follow concerning suspicious vehicles and persons were explained, particularly what is done to protect the agents and other civilians at the checkpoint when the passengers of the vehicle step out.
The group was then lead to the trailer where suspects are booked and detained until a marshal, or DPS officer is available to escort them to Tucson. The last stop of the tour was a large white truck. Though it was no ordinary truck. It has the capability of x-raying vehicles suspected of carrying narcotics. The group was even allowed to see an old image of a car carrying bricks of marijuana hidden in the tires.
All in all, Day 2 was an informative and exciting behind the scenes look into what agents are required to know and what they go through day to day trying to keep the border secure.