Walking the Line: In Harms Way

Like most law enforcement officers, Border Patrol agents don’t know what’s in store for them when they head out to work each day. But for agents stationed along the southern U.S. border, the job is especially dangerous. 

In a new video being released today by the American Federation of Government Employees, Border Patrol agents discuss coming in contact with people brandishing knives and firearms, barbed wire stretched across the road, vehicles gunning for them, and other all-too-frequent hazards.

“There are some people out there that want to cause harm to you just because of what you do,” said Terence Shigg, president-elect of AFGE Local 1613, which represents about 2,300 Border Patrol agents throughout the San Diego Sector.

Agents are facing increasing threats from cartels who control each area of the border and manage the organized smuggling of drugs, people, and known criminals across the border. They exploit gaps in coverage that occur when Border Patrol agents are responding to a call, assisting an agent who is injured, or dealing with an influx of undocumented immigrants at a single location.

In many cases, cartels are the ones responsible for orchestrating the distractions.

“They’re absolutely ruthless. To them it’s all about the money, how many people they can get across in a short amount of time,” said Robert Pepperdine, vice president of AFGE Local 2544, which represents more than 3,300 agents in the Tuscon, Ariz., Sector. “They don’t care about if they’re dehydrated, if they’re sick, if they’re old, if they’re ill. They don’t care. It’s all about the money.”

The most frequent threat to agents is rocks being thrown from across the border, said Shawn Moran, a Border Patrol agent for the past 17 years who also serves as vice president of the AFGE’s National Border Patrol Council. The rock assaults have become so frequent that many agents don’t every report them unless they are injured or government property is damaged.

“It is a very dangerous job, and one where you have to remain constantly alert and be able to take care of yourself and make sure you go home at the end of the shift,” Moran said.

The video is the third in the union’s “Walking the Line” series, which highlights the often harsh realities faced by Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in securing the southern U.S. border.

AFGE’s National Border Patrol Council is the exclusive representative for more than 17,000 Border Patrol agents and support personnel. AFGE’s National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council represents about 7,600 ICE officers, agents and employees.


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