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Border patrol needs to clean up, not receive more funding

A US Border Patrol agent looks toward Mexico from the bank of the Rio Grande near McAllen, Texas.
A US Border Patrol agent looks toward Mexico from the bank of the Rio Grande near McAllen, Texas.(John Moore/Getty Images)

The Ebola crisis has sparked no small number of irrational statements, but one of the least sensible is the call to invest heavily in US border enforcement. President Obama’s highly anticipated plans for executive action on immigration, announced Thursday, included boosting border security. A more secure border, the thinking goes, should be the policy priority, not creating pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

But there’s a problem with that reasoning: The United States already has piled additional billions into border security, creating Customs and Border Protection, which is now the largest law enforcement agency in the country, with 60,000 agents and staff.

The number of border agents has nearly doubled in 10 years. In a compelling 10,000-word exposé in Politico magazine, writer Garrett M. Graff presents a portrait of an overstaffed, dysfunctional Border Patrol, a force within Customs and Border Protection that is home to rogue agents and cloaked in secrecy. Many of the agency’s problems are attributable to its rapid growth, much of it originally funded in George W. Bush’s second term and maintained afterward.

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A surge in funding would exacerbate the issues plaguing the border patrol, which placed too many inexperienced agents in the field without proper training, and continues to struggle with internal misconduct and corruption cases.

Politico’s Graff layers in many chilling points about the patrol and its officers, whose green uniforms prompted Washington officials to dub the agency the Green Monster. It is likely one of the US government’s deadliest agencies, with 46 fatal shootings in the past 10 years.

The US government already spends a disproportionate amount of money on border and immigration enforcement. Now it’s up to Customs and Border Protection to clean up its act, create more transparency, and change its culture.