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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described a recent “tough trip” to the U.S. southern border that included tense encounters with Border Patrol agents, some of whom he accused of acting “unprofessionally.”
“It was a tough trip because we confronted a workforce … whose morale is struggling, is down and that’s a responsibility I have to address it, and we certainly met when we got back with a whole team about how we were going to address the challenges,” he said in a taped interview last week with Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz.
Mayorkas also referenced a number of tense incidents during his visit to the border, including one agent turning his back on him. Another agent reportedly pressed the Homeland Security chief on how agents are unable to patrol the border due to the policies of the Biden administration, while another reportedly said that Yuma was better under President Trump as “everyone was doing their jobs.”
“I really appreciated the openness with which the agents expressed their views,” he said. “A couple of guys might have expressed them what I felt was unprofessionally — which was surprising to me because it’s something I’ve never seen in the Border Patrol in my… eight years of person-to-person exposure.”
“But the substance of what was communicated really called for action, and we’re jumping on it — but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.
Ortiz had also been subjected to the anger of some agents with Mayorkas in the room.
“I get it,” Ortiz said in one conversation. “You come to work, you’re frustrated. You’re upset because you didn’t get the desired outcome that you want. Doesn’t mean you give up.”
As the conversation continued, other agents complained that “you keep releasing criminal aliens into the country.”
With the agents seemingly still not satisfied with the answers they were getting, Ortiz asked them, “Why are you guys getting caught up in semantics? … I’ve been doing this job as long as y’all.”
“That’s the problem, chief,” one agent interjected. “For evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. That’s exactly what’s happening here. Good men are doing nothing. You’re allowing illegal aliens to be dropped off in communities.”
In the interview with Mayorkas, Ortiz seemed annoyed by the agents’ behavior and some of the media coverage that followed.
“I was also disappointed in some of the conduct of a few of the agents which was really showcased in some of the media platforms that were out there, but I was also very, very proud of a big portion of the workforce because I think we both heard ‘hey we appreciate you coming down here, we appreciate you listening to us, and we appreciate you taking that information and going back and doing everything you can to improve conditions here on the ground.”
The conversation comes at a challenging time for both DHS and Border Patrol, with a migrant crisis moving into its second year.
On Wednesday Fox News reported that there were more than 153,941 migrant encounters in January, a decrease over the 178,840 encountered in December but more than double the 78,414 encountered in January 2021.