KFOX14 Investigates: On the Frontlines, Border Patrol checkpoints
EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14) —
As Border Patrol agents on the southern border handle the migrant caravan arrival, KFOX14 Investigates is getting rare access to operations closer to home, including its second line of defense, the checkpoints.
Drive out of El Paso in either direction, and you’ll hit an immigration checkpoint.
“We catch a lot of people by surprise,” said Agent Sidney Fletcher. Fletcher has been with the U.S. Border Patrol for 21 years.
“You just never know what you are going to get into,” said Fletcher.
The checkpoint he works is just outside of Las Cruces.
Its primary function is to check immigration status, all while keeping traffic on 1-10 moving.
“Sometimes, the agents have barely a few seconds to make a determination,” said Fletcher.
Situated about 30 miles from the border, they serve as the second line of defense.
“It allows us to get a second chance to interdict anything they don't catch (at the border),” said Fletcher.
It’s not just people coming to or from the southern border.
“We've caught people from all over the world. England, Canada, almost every country in Africa you can think of, Central/South America, China, Korea, you name it,” said Fletcher.
Agents say they routinely encounter what you'd expect: fraudulent documents, drugs and stolen cars.
“We pretty much see it all,” said Fletcher.
They also find many things you don't expect.
“Voodoo temples. Human remains. We call this place the fun house, because it’s always going to be something different,” said Fletcher.
In this remote area, agents also act as first responders.
Over the years, they've encountered missing adults and children.
“We've been fortunate enough to intercept some Amber Alerts over the years,” said Fletcher.
As we travel with agents down I-10, we get a look at some of the work the National Guard is doing after being deployed to the border.
Farther out near Deming, New Mexico, is a forward operating base where the guard monitors sensors and cameras in this remote area.
The agency tells KFOX14 Investigates it's in this area where larger drug loads tend to come across.
Out there, the darkness provides cover for smugglers.
“It can be confusing in the middle of the night when you get turned around,” explained an agent.
The agency said having the guardsmen to monitor cameras and sensors allows more agents to work in the field.
Manpower Chief Aaron Hull says the agency needs .
“You've got 2,000 miles and only so many agents to do that,” said Hull.
President Donald Trump ordered the agency to hire 5,000 more agents shortly after being inaugurated, but it's taken time to hire and train those agents, and this sector hasn't seen reinforcements yet.
Agents at the border are also oftentimes the first responders to car accidents and emergencies that happen in the remote areas.