A Border Patrol Agent's Views on Immigration President Bush traveled to the border city of Yuma, Ariz., on Thursday to promote his plan to boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border. Hundreds of would-be illegal immigrants are intercepted every day near Yuma. Madeleine Brand speaks with Border Patrol officer Curt Abbott about what he's seen in his work, and his thoughts about immigration policy.

A Border Patrol Agent's Views on Immigration

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From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Noah Adams. Coming up, Gen. Michael Hayden faces the Senate Intelligence Committee.

BRAND: But first, President Bush visits the border town of Yuma, Arizona today. He's promoting his proposals for immigration reform including sending more National Guard Troops to the border. He's chosen Yuma because the border patrol there catches some three to 400 people a day trying to cross the border. Curt Abbott works with border patrol in Yuma, Arizona, and he joins us now. Welcome to the program.

Mr. CURT ABBOTT (Director, National Border Patrol Council, Arizona): Thank you.

BRAND: It sounds like your office is pretty busy there in Yuma, Arizona. Describe what it's like there on a daily basis.

Mr. ABBOTT: On a daily basis it begins with a morning briefing telling us what happened the day before and where the current action is. And then the agents roll out to the field and begin their apprehensions for the day.

BRAND: And are they very busy?

Mr. ABBOTT: Absolutely. Typical day is three to 400 apprehensions per day.

BRAND: So what does that mean? Does that mean just constantly being out there and arresting people nonstop?

Mr. ABBOTT: Absolutely, just like you described arresting one after another, after another. There's a lot of down time. There's not a lot of sitting around.

BRAND: And then what do you do with those people?

Mr. ABBOTT: They're transported back to our main station, Yuma Station, here in Yuma, Arizona where they are processed to determine their citizenship. They're also checked for felonies within this country. And then they are either returned to their country of origin or they are apprehended for felonies that they've committed in this country.

BRAND: And how long does that whole process take?

Mr. ABBOTT: Typical process time can go from a couple hours to half a day depending on whether or not the person shows up as having a warrant for an arrest.

BRAND: So that's pretty quick. And so I wonder how often do you see the same faces.

Mr. ABBOTT: You can see the same face a couple times a day if they're quick about getting back to where they need to get to, and come back through the border.

BRAND: Why do so many people try to cross there at Yuma?

Mr. ABBOTT: We have several Mexican cities directly across from us.

BRAND: Is there a fence there?

Mr. ABBOTT: There is. In San Luis, there is a small fence that divides San Luis, Arizona from San Luis, Mexico.

BRAND: The Senate has proposed creating a much larger, longer fence. Do you think that will help?

Mr. ABBOTT: It helps directly where the fence is but when the fence ends, that's where they tend to cross. They'd just be further out in the desert rather than in the city limits.

BRAND: The president is proposing sending more National Guards to help you. Do you think that's a good idea?

Mr. ABBOTT: Oh, we always appreciate more help. I don't believe the National Guard is the answer. Actual border patrol agents doing their job is the answer.

BRAND: What about the other side of the equation? Enforcement is one side, what about the other side in terms of perhaps allowing more legal immigration?

Mr. ABBOTT: Well I'm all for legal immigration. My ancestors came here as legal immigrants as I believe everybody's did. The problem doesn't come there. The problem is the employing of the illegals now. We need to enforce the laws that we have on the books now against employing illegal aliens. Many of these people have committed a crime entering our country and now we're talking about giving them amnesty. We don't allow other criminals to just go free and say hey don't worry about it, go ahead and come into our country. Why should we allow this group?

BRAND: What about a temporary guest worker program?

Mr. ABBOTT: It's failed in the '80s and it's going to continue to fail.

BRAND: In total, what immigration reform package do you support?

Mr. ABBOTT: I don't really know if we need an immigration reform package. I think we need to stick with the laws that we have and actually deal with what we have on the books now. We have a system for legal immigration and we have a system for interior enforcement. Right now, interior enforcement is a joke. People want that cheap labor at any cost, and well I think now is the time where going to end up paying for it.

BRAND: The president is coming to your city today. What message would you like to give him if you could?

Mr. ABBOTT: Just to do the job that we put him in office to do, to protect this country from enemies both foreign and domestic. We're not doing that. If you think that 12 million illegal aliens can get in, you can't, how can you believe that, you know, actual terrorists can't get in with that same group. A lot of people coming here are good people but, you know, we need to do that job that we were hired to do, and that's to stop illegal immigration.

BRAND: Well thank you very much for speaking with us.

Mr. ABBOTT: Thank you.

BRAND: Curt Abbott is with the Border Patrol in Yuma, Arizona.

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