Border Patrol agents process asylum seekers in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. Photo by John Moore/Getty
On Friday, ProPublica reported that Border Patrol agents have been circulating coins that mock the expectation that they care for migrants rather than chase them down and police the border. Federal agencies have long dispersed official “challenge coins” to boost morale among employees, but at a time when the brutal conditions at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities where migrants are being detained are a source of major controversy, these ersatz versions are the latest indication of how much Border Patrol agents hate their jobs.
This news follows a separate ProPublica report on a Facebook group for current and former border patrol agents that traffics in racist and sexist memes, a group the Intercept just revealed agency head Carla Provost was a member of, along with nearly 10,000 other Facebook users. (Membership has dropped to 4,000 since its existence was exposed.) A disturbing overall portrait of border enforcement is emerging, in which officers resent being forced to do jobs they don’t have the training or inclination to do, and some harbor outright contempt and hatred for the detainees in their charge.
According to ProPublica, which obtained one of these coins, they have been spotted by agents in California and Texas. Featuring a Honduran flag, the coin says “KEEP THE CARAVANS COMING.” The back is engraved what the creators apparently think the new CBP job entails: “FEEDING,” “PROCESSING,” “HOSPITAL,” and “TRANSPORT.”
Theresa Cardinal Brown, a former CBP official under the Obama and Bush administrations, told ProPublica that the coin’s very existence showed “reflexive dehumanization” on the part of Border Patrol agents and too great a “tolerance for shenanigans” among their bosses. But current government mostly shrugged it off as harmless arts and crafts, while Hector Garza, a spokesman for the border patrol union, told ProPublica that the coin demonstrated that agents wanted to get back to the regular job of enforcement.
“Us caring for kids and families, that’s not the frustration,” Garza said. “Drugs coming into the country? That’s a frustration. People with criminal records coming in and us not being able to catch them? That is a frustration.”
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