SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The U.S. Border Patrol for decades has conducted immigration checks at transportation hubs like bus stations and airports. Now, the agency is quietly rolling back the program.
But the reason for the move remains unknown.
National spokesman Bill Brooks, based in Marfa, Texas, had little to say when asked what’s going on. He wasn’t willing to answer any questions beyond reading from a prepared statement.
“The Border Patrol is constantly reviewing and adjusting strategies in order to improve operational effectiveness,” Brooks said. “Intelligence-driven transportation checks are one of many tactics utilized to address emerging threats.”
He would not confirm if there has been a policy change. But current and former agents say personnel is being pulled out of airports, bus terminals and train stations.
Now, they can only be present at transportation centers if first tipped off to illegal activity.
Kent Lundgren was assigned to El Paso International Airport three decades ago. He’s now retired from the agency and heads up the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers.
“They have been told to quit something they’ve done for 60 years,” Lundgren said. “That’s a policy change and anybody who says otherwise is just playing word games.”
Agency administrators didn’t want word of the change to get out, said Shawn Moran, a San Diego agent and vice-president of the Border Patrol union – the National Border Patrol Council – which represents 17,000 non-supervisory agents.
“Smuggling organizations are very smart,” Moran said. “They know when there’s a change in our policy, they know how we operate.”
He added: “And when they don’t see us at these transportation hubs, they’re going to exploit that system to move drugs, people, what have you, into this country.”
It remains unclear how far and wide and how quickly the policy shift is taking place. The agency’s not saying.