WASHINGTON—Six days ago, Border Patrol agent Art Del Cueto arrested a Mexican national who had illegally crossed the southwest border in the Tucson, Arizona, sector.
Del Cueto said the man told him, “You guys as Americans are weak with your laws, and we love it.”
“I laughed at it,” Del Cueto said. “I’m sitting there going, how ironic is this that I’m explaining to a Mexican national how his country’s laws are tougher than ours and he turns around and just tells me, ‘Well, it’s not my fault you guys are weak. You guys need to toughen up.’”
The porous southwest border is big business for Mexican cartels and human smuggling organizations. Their mission and their bottom line is directly tied to the amount of drugs, humans, and other contraband they can push over the border into the United States.
On June 24, in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, Customs and Border Protection agents at a vehicle checkpoint discovered an illegal alien underneath the sleeper compartment of a tractor trailer unit. They also found 31 bundles of marijuana weighing over 230 pounds total, along with five pounds of cocaine hidden in the cab.
On the same day, at a different checkpoint, agents stopped a tractor trailer that was hauling several vehicles. They discovered 18 illegal aliens within three of the vehicles.
On June 19, in Del Cueto’s sector, a 6-year-old boy was found in the middle of the desert by Border Patrol agents. He was wandering alone in the 100-degree heat, according to a Customs and Border Protection report.
“All he had in his pocket was a little note, and it had his mom’s name and his mom’s phone number, and he was just pretty much placed over the fence into the United States from his uncle in Mexico,” Del Cueto said. “This is in the middle of nowhere. It’s crazy. What if we wouldn’t have been there to find this child?”
Border Patrol agents are not only dealing with human smuggling and crime on the border, but now they’re being attacked by some of the nation’s politicians and liberal activists.
“They make it a race issue, it’s a race issue to them,” said Del Cueto, who is a 15-year veteran Border Patrol agent and vice president of the National Border Patrol Council.
“No Border Patrol agent wakes up in the morning saying they are going to go arrest Mexicans. We don’t arrest based on race. We arrest people that break the law,” he said. “People like these movie stars that think it’s fun to be on TV and attack immigration laws that they don’t know nothing about …nobody really wants to hear the reality of what’s going on.”
He said he apprehends adults and children every day who claim to be related but are not. The smuggling organizations know there is a high chance that adults with children will be released into the United States after a brief period of detention—usually no longer than 20 days.
“So we have to be very, very inquisitive when we question these people,” Del Cueto said.
He said he has questioned many minors after apprehending them and asked if they were related to the adult accompanying them. He said the minor might, at first, say it is their parent, then after being questioned, they would say it’s their uncle. After more questioning, they might say he’s from the same village.
“And you keep pressing the issue and they would turn around and they’d say, ‘You know what, I just met him on the road,’” Del Cueto said.
“These individuals that are out there protesting and attacking Border Patrol agents specifically, they don’t realize that we conduct investigations and sometimes these investigations take time,” he said. “So when we are separating the adults from these children, a lot of times what’s happening is we’re saving these kids and taking them out of harm’s way.”
In fiscal year 2017, Homeland Security saw 46 cases of children being used fraudulently by adults crossing illegally. In the first five months of fiscal 2018, 191 such cases have been reported.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said most of the minors currently in detention crossed the border illegally as unaccompanied minors.
“The vast, vast majority of children who are in the care of Health and Human Services right now—10,000 of the 12,000—were sent here alone by their parents. That’s when they were separated. So somehow we’ve conflated everything, but there’s two separate issues,” she said on June 18.
“Ten thousand of those currently in custody were sent by their parents, with strangers, to undertake a completely dangerous and deadly travel, alone. We now care for them.”
Since this time last year, the number of unaccompanied minors crossing illegally has increased by 325 percent, while family units have jumped by 425 percent, according to Nielsen.
“Since 2013, the United States has admitted more than half a million illegal immigrant minors and family units from Central America—most of whom today are at large in the United States,” she said.
Del Cueto says he gets asked all the time by the media and activists how he would feel if it was his child being separated from him.
“And the only answer I can truly come up with is, I would not be the type of parent that would expose my child to an environment where she could die through the desert. I would not impose my child into an environment where I’m handing her over to a smuggling criminal organization that could hurt her, that could put her in the trunk of a vehicle, that could molest her,” he said.
Del Cueto said he has seen so many cases of females who take contraceptive pills during their journey north because the potential of their being raped along the way is “huge.”
“It is difficult because you see what these parents expose their children to, without caring at times,” he said.
Of the family that dropped the 6-year-old over the fence and into the desert alone, he said, “I mean, who does that to their child?”
“It’s frustrating for us and it bothers us because these are the kids that people in America are now attacking us for and saying, ‘Hey, give that child back to the mom. You took that child,’” he said.
“No, I didn’t take the child from the mom, the mom chose to put a kid in danger, and if a United States citizen would do the exact same thing, we would be screaming on all the social media about how horrible this mom is.
“Border Patrol is the one that’s assisting these people and helping them and making sure that they’re OK.”
He said activists complain that tighter border security would force people to cross the border illegally in more dangerous and remote areas.
“Well, it’s supposed to be harder for them. Right, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not supposed to simplify it.”