How Border Patrol Manipulates Media

Jenn Budd
11 min readMar 16, 2021

For those who do not know who I am: I am a former Senior Patrol agent and a San Diego Sector Headquarters Intelligence agent for the U.S. Border Patrol. I was stationed in the treacherous mountains east of San Diego from 1995 until I resigned in protest in 2001. I whistle blew when I discovered that the former boss of my station in Campo, Patrol Agent In Charge Charles Dierkop was responsible for the smuggling of tons of narcotics into the San Diego area. I was offered a promotion to shut my mouth, and when I refused, I was placed on the border in a junior agent position. I was shot at with automatic weapon fire and escaped. If you would like to read more about me, you may find it here.

I want to talk about something else today.

I have not always told the truth about my former employer. I was ashamed of the corrupt agency I used to think of as family, and I personally had to come to terms with my willingness to enforce blatantly racist policies that often times were designed to hurt and even kill migrants. I used to hunt migrants for a living. The vast majority of who were not criminals, whose only crime was crossing a man-made line in the middle of nowhere in search of safety and a better life. I have been speaking out constantly on everything I know of the Border Patrol and their culture for nearly five years now. And no, I did not start speaking out because of Trump. I started speaking out because I had a personal awaking after an incredibly serious suicide attempt resulting from severe PTSD.

All that being said, when I do speak out, it is usually with receipts. Some things do not have receipts though. The worst sorts of things are not stuff agents want anyone to know about. This often relates to the culture of the agency and how they think. It is difficult for many of you to understand this because it is an illogical, brutally cruel culture inside the Border Patrol. However, I believe I need to say this quiet part out loud. I have an impeccable reputation for honesty and truth telling in the immigration community just as I did when I was an agent. I hope that is enough. You can either choose to believe me or not.

I want to tell you how the Border Patrol manipulates the media to create crisis scenarios.

In 2000, I was a Senior Patrol agent in Campo, California. The Border Patrol management had decided to throw their weight behind George W. Bush as president against Vice President Al Gore. Although President Bill Clinton had done a great deal for the agency in terms of money and resources, the agency always leaned Republican. Republicans after all were willing to be completely anti-immigrant and had started using the talking points of anti-immigrant hate groups like the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform. Those talking points had also started to be fed to agents through a spoon known as the National Border Patrol Council…the union.

The only problem was that illegal crossings in between the ports had decreased since the mid 1990’s. The agency could not just say that more had crossed when they hadn’t. That would be a crime, and we were finally tracking apprehensions with computer programs which made it more difficult to fudge the numbers. So, they ordered agents to keep track of how many “got aways” we had. If I tracked a group of migrants and lost them, I was now responsible for guessing how many I thought were in the group and reporting it. Management at the station levels ordered us to let groups go if they got past Highway 94, the first paved road north of the border in Campo.

We never did this before. This was new, and they did not release any memos with the orders. This told us the orders were likely politically motivated. The effect, the end result was that it made the border appear out of control when it actually was not. Best of all, the numbers could not be tracked because they were guesstimates. The Border Patrol position was that Clinton was not hard enough on the border. George Bush won…sort of.

Another example of manipulation the agency engaged in was when Trump became president, and the Border Patrol began cramming asylum seekers into their crowded processing cells for weeks at a time. Migrants did not get showers, medical care, food or even places to sleep. Agents took all their possessions including documents to prove their asylum claims, photos and medicine and threw it all in the trash. Some were held outside under a bridge in a dog kennel in El Paso, Texas in the hot sun for weeks.

I personally went to that dog kennel. The Border Patrol had since emptied it because the press was snooping around too much. In El Paso and at my old station that is now an “ice-box” processing facility, I met with several agents. After telling them I was a former agent and throwing around some lingo only agents know, I asked why they were holding asylum seekers so long. After all, I know the programs they use even today. I know it did not take that long to process a family of asylum seekers. Even in my early days as an agent when I carried a revolver and used a typewriter to do my cases, it did not take that long. Every single agent I spoke to, from Texas and California, admitted that they were intentionally slow-walking the processing to create a backlog. Of course, there was no memo stating those orders, but it was still an order.

They wanted to punish them. They wanted to make the asylum seekers give up and take a deportation. They wanted them to call home and tell their families and friends not to come. Agents see these unwritten orders as something they must do to prevent more people from coming to claim asylum. They saw this order as another covert tactic to use in protecting the border. It was a deterrence tactic in their minds. It was their duty. This secrecy, this manipulation, bonds them together. As we used to say and agents still do today, they “Bleed Green.”

They created that crisis. They created the child separation crisis. Remember how former Secretary of DHS Nielson said there was no memo ordering agents to separate children from their parents? Yet, it happened anyhow. This is what I am talking about. This is what I want you to understand.

Right now, the Border Patrol is creating two crisis scenarios at once for political reasons.

First is the unaccompanied child crisis. The facilities used by the agency to process these children are filled at twice their capacity. The agency is again claiming that they are overwhelmed. I do not doubt these reports. I also do not doubt that the Border Patrol is slow-walking the cases again. It does not take that long too process a child. There may be issues between the transfer of children from Border Patrol to HHS or ORR. This is also part of the scheme: creating multi-layered systems so that when things go wrong, or maybe go as expected, they all point to each other and no one is ever held responsible. Child separations are a good example of this technique. Only this current one is an actual crisis because the Trump Administration obliterated the already frail system that existed before. Meaning they once again created the crisis.

The second crisis is not yet a crisis. It is currently in its infancy. It is growing fast with the help of Republicans making photo ops by visiting the border and espousing lies and by right-wing white nationalists setting up fake scenarios of smuggling for the press to capture. This video aired by CNN last weekend claimed their reporter happened to have stumbled onto a smuggling event on the Rio Grande in McCallen, Texas.

But there are many problems with this smuggling video.

Smugglers do not hide their faces. If Border Patrol captures them, the group is always told to run in many directions. The smugglers hide and blend into the group. If anyone says who the smuggler is, they will be killed. Smugglers also do not buy and give migrants life vests or brand new blue surgical masks. Even the Border Patrol chiefs make a big fuss on their various Twitter accounts every time they make arrests and they find out that the smugglers did not even give them masks. Smugglers also do not laugh and joke with people filming them. Oddly enough, they also do not care to be filmed.

CNN was not the only one filming that day. Jaeson Jones who often contributes to Breitbart, a self described alt-right media outlet, was also filming the same scene but from the bank of the river. Here is that video. You can hear two English-speaking men talking as the migrants disembark. The men filming joke with the smuggler in Spanish and then in English say:

- So, he came over here despite….Unintelligible.

- …taken him like seven…

- Do you ever hook those guys up?

- Yeah.

- Yup?

- Yeah, they’re…grade A…

As a former agent, what I hear is these men possibly talking about paying this smuggler off to gather a bunch of unsuspecting migrants and have them cross in a particular place in order to get this shot. Jones published this incident first in an anti-immigrant site called TripWiresTriggers. I will not provide the link for this because it is a site that puts out false information. You can look it up yourself. The following day, the video appeared in the Daily News outlet. Daily News is a right-wing, anti-immigrant outlet as well. Then it managed to find its way to Epoch Times and MTQ. This was all before CNN finally released their report on the incident.

Whether or not CNN knew this was a set up or not, I cannot say. I can say that the slips in that area to put boats into the river are all controlled by CBP and Border Patrol. It is my understanding that this area is also full of sensors, cameras, sirens and Border Patrol many boats. This is not surprising as it is only a mile from the port of entry and Border Patrol is most heavily deployed around the ports. I can also say that I do not believe this could have been done without Border Patrol approval.

One participant by the name of Tim Wilkins was on the boat with CNN. He took his own video as well, and he claimed to have seen an infant fall into the river. Neither CNN nor the Border Patrol have responded to me and other inquiries as to what happened to this infant. To my knowledge, no one called BORSTAR from the Border Patrol to try and rescue or even find the baby’s body.

If these men did pay the smuggler to set up this fake illegal crossing for CNN, that is a crime. It is a violation of 8 USC 1324, human smuggling or aiding and abetting human smuggling. To my knowledge, there are no investigations being conducted. CNN even refuses to respond or admit they may have been duped.

Jones’ video was also given to Republican Representative Chip Roy and Democrat Representative Cueller, who both have strong ties to the Border Patrol. It is not known who gave them the video, but Cuellar used it in a meeting before CNN aired the footage and then created a political propaganda piece by adding sorrowful music to it before posting it to his Twitter account. Cuellar is the perfect example of how even Democrats can and are often anti-immigrant themselves.

The result in CNN airing this video was that the entire nation believes this is happening all along the border right now. The truth is that at this moment, it is not. But the Border Patrol, Republicans and anti-immigrant groups smell blood and video makes it seem like this is occurring everywhere. So, the Border Patrol just lets them think that. Doesn’t matter that it’s not true. Doesn’t matter that currently in Texas they are still using Title 42 Covid-19 restrictions to immediately expel all those who cross illegally (except unaccompanied minors) back to Mexico without any asylum paperwork…something that takes about the same time as it did to “voluntarily return” Mexican nationals in my day.

As yet, the main stream media refuses to even address the issue. This is in response to a friend speaking with a CBS employee about the videos:

But if you still don’t believe me, then believe the numbers. When I was an agent in 1996, we had 5,942 agents and over 1.5 million apprehensions. In 2000, the number of apprehension once again reached this level but the Patrol had 9,212 agents. Today, the Border Patrol has 19,648 agents. That’s roughly four times what we had when I worked there. In 1996, we averaged about 125K apprehensions every month. In 2000, they averaged almost 137K every month. For fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 2020 — Oct. 2021) so far, agents are averaging 76,327 each month. That’s significantly less than 1996 or 2000. Only they now have 19,648 agents! Honestly, I don’t understand what today’s agents do all day.

That’s what Republicans, the Border Patrol and anti-immigrant hate groups are doing. They are creating another border crisis, and the media is selling it to you. They know the numbers will eventually increase. They always do this time of year because of the agricultural season. Add to that the current administration attempting to fix all of the mess that the Border Patrol helped Trump do, yes it will get busier. But right now, the Patrol is not being overwhelmed. They are lying. They are manipulating. When they start seeing numbers equivalent to when I was an agent in comparison to the the number of agents we had, then we can start talking about a crisis.

One other thing, the Border Patrol is whining about having to pull agents out of the field for processing or even having to arrest asylum seekers. Here’s the truth…that’s their job. They are to intercept everything, even asylum seekers that come across the border without being inspected. Processing asylum seekers is their literal job. They just don’t like doing it. They prefer to be out chasing vehicles until they crash and getting dope loads.

That’s the story here. It’s another scam. I don’t have any memo’s for you to look at. I have my understanding of the culture and the agency. I have my word. Any media outlet…right, middle or left, who does not call them on this is just helping them.

In case you’ve forgotten, the migrants are people. They are human beings. They laugh, love, play, eat, drink, pray, cry and dream just like you and I do. I think many of you have forgotten this.



Jenn Budd

Former Senior Patrol agent/Intelligence agent turned immigration rights activist. Whistle blower. Advisor, speaker, writer on Border Patrol and CBP corruption.