How Border Patrol Agents Are Trained


Instructor: Close your eyes. Narrator: This… Instructor: Stand by. Narrator: is Border Patrol boot camp. Trainee: United States Border
Patrol! Get on the ground! Narrator: Before they serve in the United States Border Patrol… Trainee: Get on the ground! Do it now! Narrator: all trainees have to graduate Instructor: Fall out! Narrator: from the Border Patrol Academy’s six-month basic-training program. Daniel Harris: From day one,
our goal is to make sure that they are prepared to handle anything that they may encounter in the field, no matter what obstacle is thrown at them. Narrator: On a hot week in April, amid an intensifying border crisis, we spent four days inside the Academy, allowing us to observe different classes at various stages of the
six-month training program, and to find out if the training is adequately preparing these
future Border Patrol agents for what awaits them in the field. During our visit to the Academy in April, most of the training that we saw focused on law enforcement
scenarios like this one. Trainee: Drop that gun! Instructor: I’d consolidate
him over here if I had to. Narrator: The Border Patrol
is a law-enforcement agency, but are these future agents
getting the training they need for the humanitarian crisis at the border? Where record numbers of
migrants, many of them children, cross the border to seek
asylum in the United States. Reporter: The nation’s top border official says the migrant crisis has
reached a breaking point. Reporter: They’re coming
in record numbers. Reporter: At least five migrant children have died in government
custody since September. Reporter: As families
come here to claim asylum, fleeing violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle
countries of Central America. Narrator: After being initially
screened at the border, migrants seeking asylum in the US are held in detention centers. Many of these centers are
operated by the Border Patrol in conjunction with other
government agencies. And their conditions have become the object of intense scrutiny. Reporter: The feds have now moved nearly 300 migrant children out of a Border Patrol
facility near El Paso after reports of horrendous conditions. Narrator: In June of
2019, a team of attorneys who visited a Border
Patrol-run detention center in Clint, Texas told the Associated Press that 250 children had been
detained for over three weeks without adequate food,
water, and sanitation. Reporter: Outbreaks of scabies,
shingles and chicken pox were spreading among the
hundreds of children. Narrator: Days after the news about the Clint facility broke, acting US Customs and Border
Protection Commissioner John Sanders tendered his resignation. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:
In that last facility, I was not safe. Narrator: A group of lawmakers
visited the facility, including Democratic Congresswoman
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who compared the conditions
of the detention centers to concentration camps. Although the Border Patrol is tasked with operating detention centers, we didn’t see any training during our visit to the Academy (speaking Spanish), aside from learning to
communicate in Spanish, that was specifically focused
on working in the centers. In a statement to Business Insider, a Customs and Border Protection
spokesperson said that “The Border Patrol Academy
does not conduct training related to detention officer duties,” adding that, “Once a trainee graduates and arrives at their station, it becomes the duty and
responsibility of their station to further train the new agent on local policies and procedures.” When asked if the academy
had any future plans to change its training
based on the reports about the detention centers,
the CBP spokesperson offered no indication
that any such plans exist. So, what kind of training do Border Patrol agents
get at the Academy, and how did we get here
in the first place? The Border Patrol was established in 1924, with two stations: at the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, and near the Canadian border in Detroit. It’s main objective: combating bootleggers smuggling liquor during Prohibition. Newsreel reporter: Whenever
illegal hooch or beer was discovered by the feds, it met the same fate: crack open the kegs and let the contents flow down the drain. David Ham: It was a very bloody time. We lost over 31 officers
during that time period. There were times when
there were shoot-outs two or three times a
day for a whole month. Newsreel reporter: We still
like to remember that, once upon a time, Texas
had its own president. When we built our Capitol at Austin, we built it big, like
the one at Washington. Texas begins where Mexico leaves off, and nowadays, along the whole
thousand miles of frontier, the Border Patrol’s on
the job, day and night. Narrator: In the 1950s,
the number of migrants crossing from Mexico spiked, and the Eisenhower
administration responded with an initiative officially
known as “Operation Wetback,” named after a racist slur used
to describe Mexican migrants. Over 1 million people were deported, and Border Patrol enforcement
activities plummeted. That is, until the ’70s. Amid the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico, the number of deportations skyrocketed to the highest levels in decades. Agent: OK units, let’s shut it off. Same positions. Agent: There’s enough to
keep us busy for a while. Narrator: Since then, illegal
crossings have increased, and the Border Patrol has
continued to be scrutinized for allegations of
mistreatment toward migrants. Reporter: The US Customs
and Border Protection has launched an investigation
into a secret Facebook group where thousands of Border Patrol agents posted sexist memes and
joked about migrant deaths. Narrator: According to ProPublica, the group had about 9,500 members. Agent: We take all of the
posts that were put out today very seriously. These do not represent the thoughts of the men and women of
the US Border Patrol. Trainee: I’m a steamroller, baby! Trainees: I’m a steamroller, baby! Narrator: So, who joins the Border Patrol? Trainees: Just a-rolling down the line! Narrator: Today, about
19,000 men and women actively serve in the Border Patrol. Only 5% of the agency is female. Trainee: 34!
Agent: 35! Narrator: The biggest gender gap of any agency in the federal government. Trainee: Slowly get on your feet! Narrator: More than half of the 19,000 active Border Patrol Agents are Hispanic. Harris: A lot of our
agents who are Hispanic grew up on the Southwest border, so they grew up around
Border Patrol agents. We are honored that over half
of the Border Patrol agents are a minority, serve as a
majority in the Border Patrol. They want to protect and
serve the communities where they grew up and where they’re from. Narrator: So, how are Border Patrol agents prepared for the field? Basic training happens here, at the Border Patrol Academy
in Artesia, New Mexico, about 200 miles from the US-Mexico border. Artesia is known for three major exports: refined oil, pecans, and
Border Patrol agents. Every year, about 1,000 trainees
graduate from the Academy before heading to the field. Before they get to Artesia, incoming trainees meet in El Paso and board a bus that
takes them to the Academy. Trainee: I first decided
to go to the Marines and, you know, gain some experience, and eventually come into law enforcement. Trainee: I was in the Army. I had a urge to continue my career path. I just wanted something a
little bit more different. So I did my research, and Border Patrol was pretty much up that alley
to what I was looking for. Trainee: Well, it’s the
symbol of excellence, a symbol of pride that people are willing to defend the United States of America in a very thankless, dangerous job. So, those type of people deserve respect, and I want to be one of
those types of people. Narrator: The Border Patrol says that thousands more agents
are needed in the field, but has historically struggled
to recruit and retain them. Instructor: Get off that bus! (shouting) Instructor: How ’bout you
freaking sound off, sir! Instructor: Sound off!
Trainee: Yes, sir! Instructor: Sound off!
Trainee: Yes, sir! Narrator: For the next few hours, the new class will
experience Entry on Duty. Instructor: Stop shaking, already! Narrator: Or EOD. Instructor: Get back here! Stop! What was that? Narrator: Which forces trainees
to follow basic commands under extreme psychological stress. Instructor: You had one step to take, and you decided to take a shortcut! Instructor: Louder than me! Trainee: Yes, sir! Instructor: You’re not louder than me yet! Trainee: Yes, sir! Instructor: How you gonna arrest 20 people if you can’t even speak loudly? Luke Farrar: They’re
gonna be put under stress. And there’s a reason behind that. Instructor: Why? Why? Farrar: They have to be able to think. They have to be able
to receive instruction. They have to be able to make decisions, and then they have to be able to execute those decisions or actions under stress. Instructor: You better get back over there with the rest of them and start over! Hurry up! Farrar: I appreciate they’re here. I understand the sacrifice,
their commitment to duty. However … Instructor: Answer your voice! Farrar: You are now a
Border Patrol trainee, and you’re gonna start getting
indoctrinated into our world and getting prepared for this profession. Instructor: Why are you shaking? Why are you shaking? Instructor: ‘Cause he’s scared! And that’s what’s gonna happen
when he gets to the field! He’s gonna be scared! Instructor: He ain’t
making it to the field! Instructor: Gonna be scared, gonna shake! You think that’s gonna look good? Trainee: No, sir! Instructor: Think the
criminals are gonna like that? Trainee: No, sir! Instructor: They’re
gonna look at you and go, “I got him, he’s mine!” But we’ll teach you. We’ll teach you how not to be scared. Trainees: Back up. Instructor: The last I checked, sir, R does not come right
before T and in between S! Am I wrong? Why are you staring at me? Huh? Aren’t you an adult? Trainee: Yes, sir. Instructor: My 2 year old
can take responsibility, sir! Fix yourself! Go find the S’s! Narrator: Active trainees
are allowed to observe EOD, but when an officer caught a group of them laughing and joking, they
were quickly corrected. Officer: If that happens
again, it will end! Instructor: Day zero! Nothing’s even started yet! Instructor: No one’s
forcing you to be here. You’re welcome to leave
anytime you’d like. Instructor: Are you looking for a way out? Trainee: No, sir. Instructor: The way out is on the bus! Instructor: You had just
decided to look at me. I feel like you’re ready to quit tonight. You ready, sir? Narrator: After this session, we learned that some instructors were addressed about using language that encouraged trainees to quit, even though it was part of the
intended stress inoculation. Farrar: We’re not trying
to get people to quit. That’s certainly not the intent. Our senior leadership,
historically and now, has been supportive of the
fact that, yes, absolutely, we need more agents out there on the line getting the job done,
but that we don’t need to lower our standards in
order to accomplish that. Instructor: You better
put that pen away, sir! You make me nervous with that pen! Like you want to stab me with it! Do you want to stab me right now, sir? Trainee: No, sir. Instructor: See how far you get! Narrator: The new trainees
are issued uniforms. Instructor: Get out of my face! Hurry up, you! Narrator: But the high
stress levels endure. Instructor: Get over
there where you belong! Fold your d— pants!
Trainee: Yes, sir! Instructor: Do they button
or do they not button? Trainee: No, sir! (shouting) Farrar: These periods
of stress inoculation or intentional induction
of that high stress levels, it goes up, and it goes down. Instructor: Let’s go, hurry up! Farrar: And these things subside. Instructor: There you go. Good teamwork. Exactly what I want to see. Instructor: Start working together! Help each other out! Instructor: Do the right
thing when nobody’s looking. Narrator: As the sun begins to set on EOD, the tone from the instructors has obviously started to change. Instructor: We will become
brothers and sisters. Trust me when I’m telling you this. You will succeed if you listen to me. Instructor: Everybody’s gotta
work together as a team. You want to join the Border
Patrol, that’s part of a family. Start acting like it, start
helping each other out. Instructor: Only way you people are gonna make it through this Academy is by helping each other out! But if you don’t help and
take care of your classmates, you won’t make it, and they won’t make it! Do you understand? Trainees: Yes, sir! Instructor: None of y’all want to go home? Trainees: No, sir! Instructor: Then you better
take care of each other. Narrator: The Border Patrol Academy sits on 3,000 acres of rugged terrain, featuring life-size sectional
replicas of border fences. Instructor: Rotate!
Trainees: Rotate! Narrator: When the trainees graduate, they’ll leave with 14
different certifications, some learned inside the classroom, but most learned outside. And it all starts with fitness. Trainees spend 178 hours in the physical-techniques department. Since some field agents work on the water, trainees also have to
spend time in the pool, where they prepare to jump from
high elevations using this, an apparatus known as Jacob’s Ladder, with a vertical drop of 30 feet. If these trainees appear a little uneasy, it’s because they’re about to experience perhaps the most dreaded part of training: OC exposure. OC stands for oleoresin capsicum. More commonly known as pepper spray. Harris: You’ve got to know
how you’re going to react if someone attacks you
with the same thing. I have had one of my agents sprayed with that stuff
by a murder suspect. They’ve got to know what
it’s going to do to them, should it be used against us. (coughing)
Instructor: Stand by. Narrator: After being sprayed… Instructor: Look over here. Narrator: The trainees
have to describe vehicles parked hundreds of yards away. Instructor: All right, tell
me how many cars do you see. Trainee: Two cars, one white bus. Instructor: You’re gonna
have to open your eyes up in order to see. In order to see the suspect,
you have to open your eyes up. Trainee: Three! Instructor: No there’s not. You have to open your
eyes in order to see. Trainee: Four! Instructor: You’re gonna
have to fight through it. Trainee: Two! Instructor: All right, come on, come on. Narrator: The trainee must
then confront an assailant. Trainee: US Border Patrol! Get down on the ground! Get down on the ground! Instructor: Good hit! Trainee: Get down on the ground! Narrator: Detain him,
(coughing) and successfully call for backup. Trainee: Kilo 17, tango 30… tango 35. Instructor: 10-4. Backup! Trainee: Come on, Roger. Narrator: Finally, they’re able to wash off the OC. But the pain lingers. Interviewer: So how do you feel now? You seem OK. Trainee: My face is on fire. Trainee: This is probably
the worst thing I’ve felt. Not being able to see. I can’t even see for
the past 30, 45 minutes. My nose burning and everything. It’s pretty bad. Trainee: I think if we’re
putting our suspects out there through the same thing
we’re going through, we might as well feel what it feels like just to know how to use
the actual tools properly. Instructor: Backup’s on the way. Backup! Trainee: It’s definitely torture, but it’s a good kind of pain. Instructor: Vehicle one
through six, go, go, go, go! Narrator: Another major
component of training is driving. Radio: Go in, we have a green light. All vehicles are go. Christopher Dooley: When
they leave the Academy, most of their day they are going to be
operating within a vehicle. That will be their office for the day. They may be out in the
desert in some rough terrain. They may be called to pursue a vehicle at high rates of speed. Trainee: Sir, get your
hands out of your pockets! Dooley: These students are
running through a scenario. Trainee: Get on your knees, sir! Dooley: That trains them
to deal with what to do after they perform an
offensive driving technique. Narrator: Trainees spend over 130 hours with the firearms department. Instructor: Up! Donna Twyford: While they’re
at the Border Patrol Academy, a single trainee will shoot 6,000 rounds of the pistol ammunition and about 10,000 rounds of the rifle. We start very slowly. We just initially give them a firearm, and we say: “OK, look at this weapon. Touch this weapon. There’s no ammunition,
there’s no magazine. Let’s take the weapon out of the holster. Let’s start getting acclimated
to how this weapon feels.” And then we move on to the precision part. We fire the weapon, and we
see where the rounds go. So they’re taking everything
that we have taught them, and they’re now putting
it together with movement. And that really is the culmination of everything that
we’re trying to do here. Instructor: Make sure you guys can get to your magazine pouches. Make sure you can get
to your pistol holsters. Narrator: Once the trainees
learn how to use firearms… Instructor: Face! Narrator: they then
learn when to use them. And more importantly, when not to. This exercise is known as Judgment. Trainees face off with role players who may or not be a threat. Instructor: Face! Trainee: Drop the weapon! Drop the weapon! Narrator: Some role players
are armed with weapons, others only with cellphones. The trainees have to make
a split-second decision of whether or not to draw and fire. The trainees apply their skills in a variety of tactical scenarios, such as a hostage situation
with an active shooter. Trainee: Hands on the wall, feet apart. Jesus Azua: We get our learning objectives from what the field is
telling us they need. Narrator: In this scenario, trainees learn how to interdict a group of drug smugglers trying to cross illegally
into the United States. Instructor: Let’s get her done quickly. Azua: We use a lot of role
playing, a lot of role players, both from the local area
as well as detailed agents and instructors here at the Academy assigned on a rotational basis. Narrator: The hired role players play a huge part in perhaps
the most important aspect of training at the Academy. Spanish. Harris: Over 90% of the
individuals that we arrest will only speak the Spanish language, or the Spanish language will
be their first language. Haydee Lozano: We don’t expect them to be fluent Spanish speakers, but we do expect them to at least be able to have a conversation
to communicate with them efficiently and safely,
more than anything. That way they are able
to safely do their job. Narrator: Trainees spend 182 hours with the Spanish department. While that’s the most time spent
in one specific department, it represents less than a fifth
of their total curriculum, most of which is focused
on law enforcement. What we did not observe
during our time in Artesia were any scenarios that
specifically involved working in detention centers
or caring for children, which is a daily responsibility of some Border Patrol
agents working in the field. In regards to how trainees are instructed to work with children, the CBP spokesperson told Business Insider that “The Border Patrol Academy
trains and teaches agents about policies and regulations related to the current case precedent that governs children
in short term custody.” We asked CBP what level of responsibility the Academy should bear
in terms of preparing Border Patrol agents to deal with the current situation at
many processing centers. They said, “The Border Patrol
Academy has implemented the Medical Emergency
Decision Scenarios, or MEDS, into its curriculum.” Lozano: This is a medical response, so they have to approach
the injured subject. They have to determine what is wrong with the injured subject. That way they are able
to get the subject help as soon as possible. Narrator: This is not a scenario. This footage was shot at the
US-Mexico border in El Paso, where Border Patrol agents have to screen hundreds of migrants crossing
into the US every day and oversee crowded detention
centers where the migrants wait for days and even
weeks to be processed. As a new class prepares to graduate, are they ready for what
awaits them in the field? On graduation day, friends and family make the trip to Artesia to see their loved ones
before they’re deployed. Instructor: Honor Guard,
return the colors! Close ranks! March! Agent: Less than 100 years, and we have 128 line-of-duty deaths. That’s more than one a year. That’s too many. Narrator: At the beginning of training, each trainee is issued a silent partner, one of the 128 Border Patrol
agents killed in action, represented by a card that they carry with them at all times. Agent: This is what
we’re trying to change. The mistakes we’ve made in the field, things that we’ve done wrong. Hopefully nothing ever bad happens to one of your loved ones,
but in the case that it does, you’ll always be part of
this Border Patrol family. Harris: We’re going to
prepare them from day one how to take care of
themselves, their partners, the people that they encounter, treat them just like they
would want a family member to be treated, and then
go home to their families. I want them to look
back and say, “Every day I was willing to put my life
on the line for this country, and I served admirably,
and I made a difference in the protection of America.” Narrator: Meanwhile, boot camp is just
beginning for class 1120. That’s the group we first
met on the bus from El Paso, and we were on hand for the message that Academy Chief Dan M. Harris,
Jr. delivered to the class on day one of their training. Agent: Good afternoon, sir! Trainees: Good afternoon, sir! Harris: Good afternoon, class. My name is Dan Harris
Jr., and I am the chief of this, the United States
Border Patrol Academy, and there are a few things
that I need to tell you that you need to hear directly from me. I promise you, you’re
going to have to take someone’s freedom away. And you are going to get that
right when you leave here. Let’s hope you don’t ever have
to take someone’s life away, but you’re asking me to give you the authority to do both of those things. And let me be crystal clear. If you bring dishonor to the United States Border Patrol, if you bring dishonor to
the uniform you are wearing, I’m going to fire you. Is that understood? Trainees: Yes, sir! Harris: Every single class
tells me that same thing. There are men and women out there on the street on patrol right now, in the desert, who need
you as their backup. They need your help out there right now. I need you to graduate from this academy. But again, nothing will be given to you. I wish the best of luck to all of you. And the next time I talk
to you will be day 112. I’ll see you then. On your feet. All yours.