After Being Inside the Border Patrol, She Became a Pro-Immigrant Activist
By Manuel Ocaño
Jenn Budd rose through the Border Patrol’s ranks, becoming an intelligence officer, but after knowing the agency from the inside for six years, she decided to leave that life and help migrants. Today, she can be found at shelters in Tijuana.
In a conversation with La Prensa San Diego, Budd explained the point of view that is held inside the Border Patrol.
According to the former agent, “the Border Patrol practices a policy of abuse and severe punishment of migrants, and finds (in) President Donald Trump the perfect protection (for impunity).”
She said that outside of the agency, the patrol tries to present a different image to the public, but warned that, because of their preparation in their academy and the influence of at least one extreme anti-immigrant organization, “the patrolmen really think they are fighting an invasion which puts the security of the country at risk.”
“They really believe that, otherwise you don’t explain how it is that there can be so much cruelty against babies, families, mothers…,” she said.
Budd says the hard border policy has always existed, but was escalated by using the 9/11 attacks as justification.
“In the mid-1990s there were about 5,000 patrol officers border that arrested between 1.3 and 1.5 million undocumented migrants a year. Now there are more than 20,000 border patrolmen who detain some 400,000 migrants,” she explained. “And yet there is a declared ‘crisis’ at the border.”
“Of course it is an orchestrated crisis,” she added.
Of about 400,000 migrants that the patrol classifies annually as detainees, the majority are migrants who surrender to request asylum.
Budd said that the figures of the patrol itself that reached the lowest levels of undocumented immigration of the last 50 years are true. It is true that the number of families and children who arrive at the border without the company of adults seeking asylum increased, “but the high rate of asylum requests has always existed, it is not new.”
As an agent, Budd worked mostly in the Campo area, east of San Diego in the mountains between rancherías. “And even two decades ago then there even many asylum requests,” she recalled.
“The only difference between the asylum requests then and the ones now is the technology with which you can (file) them, but not the quantity; it took me an average of two hours to fill out an application because there were no computers or they were very slow in the 90s; but now you have powerful computers connected to networks, ” she said.
But, he was asked, then, why, in appearances before the congress, those who lead the Border Patrol nationally have declared that it is a task that goes beyond their control, and that the system has collapsed by so many migrants.
Budd says it is part of an image “towards the public, towards the outside of the patrol; inward is completely the opposite. The border patrol has always wanted to be an agency that punishes migrants, which considers an invasion that comes to the United States to abuse social services. ”
This even though migrants cannot by law receive social assistance, and their contributions, including taxes, are estimated to be near an annual 90 billion dollars.
La Prensa San Diego interviewed to verify a Mexican mother who has just left a detention center on probation.
Throughout the interview, the mother of four cried. She said that the migrants are locked up by dozens in small spaces where it is difficult for them to sit or lie down and sleep, they leave them without bathing for about two months. “The patrolmen who bring in food (to detainees) enter with mouth covers to not breathe in the smells. It is always the same food, almost rotten, that they just throw at them, as if they were animals, always insulting them.”
Budd said this is the image that the patrol wants to have on the outside.
“The patrolmen know that nothing is going to act against them, that nothing is going to happen, and on top of that they consider those people as enemies, not as human beings,” she said.
Budd herself, as an officer, was a victim of rape and sexual abuse within the corporation and she had constant confrontations because the patrol considered her “too liberal.”
For a while she even considered suicide.
But when the former agent began volunteering in shelters on both sides of the border about a year ago, she accompanied a Salvadoran teenager to have her baby. It was a prolonged birth and it took 12 hours for Budd to hold the mother’s hand, trying to reassure her with her limited Spanish.
When Linda was born, and at 3 a.m., the former intelligence officer, the migrant and the baby, were like a small family. Budd says that when the newborn’s mother heard that mothers were separated from their children at the border, she worried.
The former officer tried to reassure her, but says she couldn’t help thinking that Linda is an American and could be taken away or put in a cage.
For Budd, that baby became a reason to live and to side with the migrants.
Today it is not uncommon to see the blonde, tattooed Jenn determined to go between Little Haiti and the Agape shelter in Tijuana, looking for ways to help.