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John Randolph Headshot

From Border Patrol Agent To Immigration Reform Activist: My Journey For Justice

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In my twenty-six years as a US Border Patrol/ICE Agent, I caught many people. At the time, common sense told me that the vast majority of the people who I caught were good, hard working people. I began to wonder why immigrants had to be chased like animals, and why I was being paid to chase them.

Early on in my career, death and injury brought it all into perspective. In the early 1980's one of my classmates who transferred over to DEA was murdered during an undercover rip-off. Another co-worker friend was shot to death while on surveillance of an alien smuggling ring. I witnessed a young Mexican man fall to death from a freeway overpass while running from me. I myself fell out of the passenger side of a patrol unit when my partner blindly accelerated before I could get back in the car. I saw a young Mexican woman who while running at full speed in the dark, hit her head on the dropped cement ceiling of a drainage tube. She required hospitalization and facial surgery.

One night, after coming home from a day of work, I had a dream of a high-speed pursuit in which the car that I was chasing crashed. I ran up to the overturned car to apprehend the perpetrator. When I opened the car door, I found that my own son, injured inside. This dream had a profound effect on me.

Since my days as a Border Patrol Agent, I've had a change of heart. I'm now a musician and a migrant activist, above all else. It's all hard to put into words, I suppose. Hungry people, friends getting killed, and no real sense that what we were doing was doing any good. "What are we doing here? Why am I chasing these people?", I'd ask myself.

I learned early in my twenty six year career as a US Border Patrol Agent, INS Criminal Investigator, and a DHS Special Agent, that we neither had nor were provided the resources to stop people or drugs from entering the country. I knew officers who worked at the port of entry in San Diego. They told me of the large amounts of drugs that were being intercepted. I naturally wondered how much must have been getting through.

After thirty-five years of working and observing our government's failed immigration and drug enforcement systems, I am now convinced that both are insidiously designed to fail. The failure of NAFTA and the unrelenting violence of the US-backed war on drugs in Mexico have created conditions for a Mexican exodus. There have been close to 40,000 drug war-related deaths in Mexico since 2006. I know the real victims of these two forces; I've met them. They are the poor and hard-working Mexican citizens who only want a better life. The border is really meant to keep the good people from both sides from joining together, from knowing each other, and from prospering.

I therefore support the use of asylum as a means of protection for such Mexican citizens whose lives are put in danger everyday by the US backed drug war. While the Obama administration just announced its decision to back off of the deportation of "low priority" immigration cases, I believe that this is not true immigration reform. Rather, it postpones any actual case decisions from being made. I also believe we should support the millions of US Dream Act kids and undocumented Mexicans with the use of immigration hearings as a vehicle for reform. I say we should turn the 300,000 case back log into a million case backlog. It is now clear to me that Washington will not reform failed drug or immigration systems until it is put in the position where it is forced to do so.

After twenty-six years of chasing people on the behalf of the U.S. government, finally, I have to ask our politicians this question: How many more people will die until our system fundamentally changes?