I was both amused and appalled by the front-page story in last week’s Sentinel about the Border Patrol’s treatment of six of my friends at the inspection point south of Marfa on February 25, resulting in the overnight confinement of Lena Hill in the Presidio County jail.
Amused, because the chances are very slim that Border Patrol agents would choose to stop a car containing two working journalists and four other activist citizens who know their rights and are not shy about standing up for them. I am sure they are regretting that choice this week.
Appalled, because of the disrespectful and abusive way the occupants of that car were treated. I thought that the purpose of the Border Patrol was to ensure that people were in this country legally, not to harass and abuse law-abiding American citizens who are taking pictures of them.
Let me hasten to say that during the 15 years that I have lived in the Big Bend I have been treated with nothing but courtesy and smiles by agents at Border Patrol checkpoints. But I had an experience many years ago that showed me the other side of the coin. In 1965 I was returning from a month-long sojurn in Mexico. I was driving a dilapidated Dodge pickup and was deeply suntanned and had grown a bushy moustache. I was wearing sunglasses and the type of straw hat you could only buy in the interior of Mexico, the kind with a little jinglebob dangling from the back of the brim. I pulled into the Border Patrol checkpoint 30 miles north of Laredo and the agent walked up to my truck, yanked the door open, and in Spanish curtly ordered me to get out, using the second person verb form. I took off my sunglasses and in English said, “I beg your pardon?” and his entire demeanor changed. He backed away, gently closed the door, politely asked me if I was an American citizen, and, when I said yes, wished me a good trip and waved me on.
From my more recent encounters with Border Patrol agents I thought things had changed, but apparently not. I suggest that the agents who stopped my friends either be given some training in common courtesy or apply for transfers to the Gestapo.
Fort Davis, Texas
When I read Mr. Siglin’s letter last week, some questions came to mind.
He spoke of a “virtual” wall instead of a “physical” wall. Let me just say this. We – the American people – do not need to hire more “border” patrol agents. There are plenty to be found in Pecos (over 200 miles to the border), Fort Stockton (over 150 miles to the border), Marfa & Alpine (both around 80-100 miles to the border).
If we take all of the agents in these sectors, put up guard shacks every 5-10 miles, then “border” patrol agents can actually patrol the border. I know the argument for the agents in those cities – we have to stop them!
Well, this way you can stop them! Why don’t we try this before we spend billions on a wall? With our bridges crumbling, our highways under constant construction, and all of the other things that are falling apart we could use those funds elsewhere. Thanks for listening.
Tags: letters to the editor