Agent Robert Smith

Agent Robert Smith

A weeklong electronic journal.
Nov. 14 1997 3:30 AM

Agent Robert Smith

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       I arrived at work this morning and immediately took a good-natured ribbing from my co-workers about only being able to grab one person when I initially busted that group last night.
       "Was that the only woman in the group or did all the other women and children outrun ya?"
       "There's no shame in being scared, if you're scared just say you're scared."
       "Keep practicing, and maybe when you grow up you will be a border-patrol agent like the rest of us."
       Of course this was followed immediately by snickering and a few guffaws. I let them have their fun. It helps to build cohesion and morale and I know that when it comes right down to it, I can count on every one of them to watch my back. Anyway, I'm no better. You can bet that if the shoe were on someone else's foot, I'd join right in. (Besides, I'm not afraid to admit that some of those women and children are pretty fast.)
       My assignment today was Red Shank Highpoint in Zone 4. Whereas this is a very vital role in the defense of the sector, and the whole premise that Operation Gatekeeper is built on, it is not one of the more exciting jobs that we do. It is the equivalent of sitting on the bench and watching while the rest of the team plays the game. When you are assigned to a highpoint you are instructed to sit in the same spot for the entire shift and look for traffic that might try to cross. The intent of this position is to be a visual deterrent, so that the alien smugglers can see you and will not cross in your presence. It has proven to be effective. However, I don't know a single agent who likes to work highpoints. Most have a very narrow perspective and feel that if they are not actively working traffic they are not being very effective. On the contrary, traffic has slowed tremendously in this sector, and it is due primarily to these positions. Anyway, this is how my day progressed.
       7:00 a.m. Muster meeting.
       8:00 a.m. Draw my vehicle and head for Zone 4.
       8:25 a.m. See a Hispanic-looking gentleman walking through the brush near the side of the road. Stop to investigate.
       8:30 a.m. Gentleman turns out to be a legalized resident-alien and is upset that I stopped to question him. Can't say that I blame him. We have gotten so many new agents within the past year and a half that he probably gets stopped by us a lot. Advise him that it looks peculiar to walk through the bushes when there is a shoulder to walk on, so to keep from getting stopped in the future, he might want to think about using a car or walking so as not to conceal himself. He mumbles something under his breath that I can't quite understand (probably isn't a thank you).
       8:45 a.m. Arrive at Red Shank, scan the area, see nothing.
       10:00 a.m. Read a magazine.
       10:30 a.m. Listen to the radio as Zone-3 units work a group that crossed. Would much rather be over there.
       11:00 a.m. Scan of the area reveals two bonfires on the Mexican side of the fence, probably groups of aliens that are staging to cross after dark.
       1:00 p.m. A group of six comes out of the brush on the south side of the fence and proceeds to walk farther south. Probably know that I saw them.
       3:00 p.m. Leave Red Shank for station.
       3:30 p.m. Wash vehicle and turn it in.
       5:00 p.m. Leave work.
       7:00 p.m. Run two miles and work out.
       8:30 p.m. Eat dinner and get uniform ready for tomorrow.
       10:00 p.m. Watch TV and go to bed.

Robert Smith is an agent with the United States Border Patrol based in Campo, Calif., 40 miles east of San Diego.