an agency originally created to combat terrorism now has to care for migrants too
On a hot day in May, hundreds of asylum seekers were gathered near a border gate in El Paso. Many of them had waited for days in worrying conditions, before Border Patrol agents finally opened the gate and brought the migrants to holding facilities.
In a different scene, just a few miles away, senior government officials and security contractors had assembled in the air-conditioned El Paso Convention Centre for an event showcasing the latest technology to secure America’s borders – from surveillance towers to robotic dogs.
The contrast in scenes represents a ballooning of responsibilities of the Customs and Border Protection. The agency, which includes the Border Patrol, was set up after the 9/11 attacks with a terrorism focus. Its website reveals its top priority as keeping terrorists from entering the US.
Some Officials Acknowledge Need To Focus On CBP’s Primary Mission
While CBP’s mission has remained the same since its establishment, its responsibilities have significantly grown. Apart from securing America’s borders, the agency has been dealing with another pressing issue for the past decade – a humanitarian one.
The second problem is driven by migrants coming across the border, many of whom are escaping poverty and violence. Even as few threaten the country’s security, the government has been sending the biggest law enforcement agency to arrest and subsequently care for refugees.
A major portion of the agency’s budget has always been used to secure the border. By comparison, a minor amount goes toward providing shelter and care for the troubled asylum seekers. Although some officials have privately acknowledged a need to focus on CBP’s primary mission, the sentiment is not shared by all.