October 8 - October 14
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
The Roads Not Taken:
How Historical Proposals Could Shape the
Future of the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard
In an era where border security and maritime law enforcement are subjects of intense national discussion, the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) stand as two pillars safeguarding the nation's frontiers. While each agency has its unique mission and jurisdiction, history reveals a fascinating "what if" scenario: There was a time when these two entities could have been one and the same. Congressional bills H.R. 11204 from 1930 and its identical successor, H.R. 9747 from 1932, once proposed merging the USBP under the umbrella of the USCG. Though this vision never came to fruition, it raises compelling questions that are still relevant today. What if these two agencies were to become part of a new, unified federal department? This blog delves into this historical context to explore the intriguing possibilities and challenges that such a unification could present for the future of border and maritime security in the United States.
In the midst of the Great Depression, a period marked by economic hardship and a focus on internal affairs, Congress revisited a significant proposal: the unification of the USBP and the USCG. On February 25, 1932, H.R. 9747 was introduced, serving not merely as a legislative echo but as a deliberate reaffirmation of the original vision set forth in H.R. 11204 from 1930. The fact that this idea was reintroduced during such a tumultuous time in American history underscores its perceived importance and the sustained interest it garnered. It wasn't a fleeting thought but a concept that lawmakers seriously considered, warranting discussion and debate for more than two years.
Why the Original Plan Didn't Materialize
A 1930 report advised against merging the USBP with the Coast Guard due to several key concerns. The Coast Guard's maritime and military focus was fundamentally different from the USBP's envisioned role as a civilian, land-based law enforcement agency. These differences extended to operational focus and organizational culture, creating practical difficulties in unifying the two services. As a result, the decision was made to keep the USBP and the Coast Guard as separate entities. See the last two pages of this 1930 article.
Current Roles and Responsibilities
Today, the USBP is primarily responsible for securing the United States' international land borders and coastal areas between ports of entry. Their focus is on preventing unlawful entry into the U.S., whether it be people or contraband. On the other hand, the U.S. Coast Guard serves as both a branch of the military and a maritime law enforcement agency. Their duties range from search and rescue operations to enforcing maritime laws and treaties.
Challenges and Overlaps
Both the USBP and the USCG face similar challenges, such as combating drug trafficking, human smuggling, and ensuring national security. There are areas where their responsibilities overlap, particularly in coastal regions where jurisdictional boundaries can be less clear. This overlap sometimes leads to questions about the most efficient use of resources and whether a more unified approach could be beneficial. For instance, both agencies are involved in maritime drug interdiction efforts and have roles in disaster response and humanitarian missions.
Imagining a Unified Department
Rationale for Unification
The original vision of unifying the USBP and the USCG under a single administrative umbrella was rooted in the idea of creating a more cohesive and effective approach to border security. Today, this rationale still holds weight. Both agencies face similar challenges and sometimes overlap in responsibilities. A unified department could streamline operations, improve coordination, and optimize the use of resources.
While the idea of placing the USBP and the USCG under a new unified federal department presents numerous advantages, it's essential to acknowledge the hurdles that such a monumental change would entail.
By examining these potential challenges through the lens of similar historical restructurings, it becomes clear that while the benefits of unification could be substantial, the path to achieving it would be fraught with complexities that would require careful planning and execution.
A new federal department could be established to oversee both the USBP and the USCG. This department would be responsible for all aspects of border security, both maritime and land-based. Each agency would retain its specialized focus but would operate under the strategic direction of the new department.
Reorganization of Air and Marine Operations
An important consideration in this restructuring would be the fate of the Air and Marine Operations (AMO), currently under Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In this unified department scenario, AMO could be divided between the USBP and the USCG based on their respective areas of expertise and operational focus. This realignment would allow CBP to revert back to its original role as the United States Customs Service (USCS), further streamlining responsibilities within the new department.
Advantages and Implications
Unification could lead to several advantages, such as increased operational efficiency and better resource allocation. By eliminating redundancies and improving coordination, the new department could provide stronger border security. Additionally, a unified approach could enhance the government's ability to adapt to emerging threats and challenges.
However, such a monumental change would not be without its challenges. Legal hurdles would need to be overcome to redefine the roles and responsibilities of each agency. Budgetary concerns would also arise, as the restructuring would require significant financial investment. Public perception could be another obstacle, as any change to agencies as critical as the USBP and the USCG would likely be subject to intense scrutiny and debate.
Aligning USBP Pay Grades with Military Ranks in a New Department
As we've explored the idea of merging the Coast Guard and the USBP into a new department, one question remains: How would the USBP fit into this new structure, especially if it were to be brought under United States Code Title 14 while maintaining its current law enforcement authorities? The answer may lie in aligning USBP pay grades with military ranks.
It's worth noting that the USBP could maintain many of its current titles, such as "Patrol Agent in Charge" and "Chief Patrol Agent." These titles would become honorary and secondary to the pay grades and the rank insignia that strictly align with those pay grades.
The Nonsupervisory Roles
In this new department, nonsupervisory roles within the USBP could be assimilated into military Warrant Officer grades:
Transition to Supervisory Roles
Border Patrol Warrant Officers (nonsupervisory agents) entering the Border Patrol Officer Corps (supervisory agents) would have to meet the same criteria as is common in other branches of the federal uniformed services. These include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Space Force, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps.
The Supervisory Side
For supervisory roles, the higher pay grades could be mapped to military officer ranks:
The Potential Benefits
By aligning USBP pay grades with military ranks, the new department could benefit from a standardized and easily recognizable system. This could facilitate better coordination with other military and law enforcement agencies and enhance the public's understanding of the USBP's structure within this new department.
The idea of placing the USBP and the U.S. Coast Guard under a new unified federal department is as intriguing today as it was when first proposed in the early 20th century. While the agencies have evolved to meet the unique challenges of their respective domains, the similarities in their missions and the overlap in their responsibilities make the concept worth revisiting.
The potential benefits of such a move are compelling: streamlined operations, improved coordination, and optimized resource allocation could all contribute to a more robust and effective approach to border and maritime security. However, as history and similar restructurings have shown, the path to unification is fraught with legal, budgetary, and operational challenges that would require meticulous planning and execution.
As we look to the future, several questions remain open for further exploration:
By examining these questions and learning from past restructuring efforts, policymakers and stakeholders can better assess the feasibility and desirability of creating a new federal department that includes both the USBP and the USCG. Such an endeavor would not only reshape these agencies but could also redefine the nation's approach to border and maritime security for years to come.
This week, we delve into select chapters of the U.S. Border Patrol's intriguing history. Starting in 1927, Chief Patrol Inspector Grey's memo reveals the complexities of administrative decisions, as he defies the naming conventions set by General Order 61. Fast forward to 1940, and Congress passes the Nationality Act, a pivotal legislation that would later influence the Border Patrol's role during and after World War II. In 1943, acting Chief John Nelson's memo sheds light on the high turnover rate among Border Patrol Inspectors, offering a glimpse into the challenges of the time. Finally, in 1963, a near-miss incident involving a Beaver aircraft and a U.S. Air Force fighter highlights the unpredictable and often dangerous nature of Border Patrol duties. Stay tuned as we continue to uncover more captivating episodes that have contributed to shaping the U.S. Border Patrol as we know today.
This week, we honor three Border Patrol Agents on the anniversary of their Newton-Azrak Award actions.
We also remember the loss of two of our fallen on the anniversaries of their deaths.
Enjoy and have a great week!
P.S. - As an open and continuous invitation to current and former USBP employees, I am always accepting photos to post in the USBP Photo Galleries and in the Upholding Honor First pages. I sure would appreciate you visiting those pages and sending me anything that you think I could post (just send them to firstname.lastname@example.org). As always, make sure to explore all of the hyperlinks to the documents and pages. Finally, please forward this blog to whomever you think may enjoy it.
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de corps is reinforced through the shared goals, mission and values of the organization and its employees.
The definition turns Esprit de Corps into a simple formula and defines parts that comprise organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de Corps = Organizational Pride + Employee Morale
Esprit de Corps is the key to a healthy organization and engaged employees.
Honor First is foundational to the Border Patrol's organizational pride and integral to its Esprit de Corps.
THROWBACK PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Framed by Hooves:
A Unique Perspective on Air and Marine Operations
Taken 15 years ago, this captivating shot offers a unique vantage point of a CBP Air and Marine Operations helicopter, framed perfectly between the ears of a Border Patrol horse. The ravine below and the distant hilltop remind us of the diverse terrains our agents navigate.
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Myron B. Merchant - award memo, news article
Border Patrol Agent
On October 14, 1979 at approximately 10:30 p.m. a call was received by Border Patrol Agents at Rouses Point, New York that two men were walking in a sparsely populated rural area south on Cannon Corners Road near Mooers Forks, New York. Border Patrol Agent (BPA) Myron Merchant and another agent responded to the call. BPA Merchant took a surveillance position at the intersection of Cannon Corners Road and Route 11. Soon afterwards, BPA Merchant saw two men walking a short distance from his location. Suddenly the men ran into the woods. BPA Merchant notified the other agent by radio of the circumstances and followed the suspects into the woods. About fifty feet from the road BPA Merchant came under close range gunfire. One shot struck him in the upper abdomen, knocking him to the ground. One of the assailants walked toward him and raised his weapon in an apparent attempt to kill him. BPA Merchant instinctively rolled on the ground as the assailant fired narrowly missing him. BPA Merchant drew his weapon and returned the gunfire, killing the assailant. While seriously wounded, BPA Merchant marked the position of the dead man with his flashlight and then crawled on his back to the road where he was met by the agent he had earlier radioed.
During the gunfire the second man fled. He was captured later at a New York State Police roadblock in Mooers, New York. BPA Merchant’s ability and presence of mind to be able to give a description of the second man greatly contributed to his capture. The two men were later identified as two escapees who had been charged with murdering a Montreal, Quebec police officer and seriously wounding two other officers of that city. BPA Merchant’s actions that evening reflect his great personal courage and presence of mind during an emergency life and death situation.
Robert H. Arnold Jr.
Senior Patrol Agent
El Paso Sector
Herbert L. Williams
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent
El Paso Sector
Senior Patrol Agent Robert H. Arnold Jr. and Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Herbert L. Williams were recognized for their acts of bravery and heroism during the pursuit of a narcotics load vehicle after it illegally entered the U.S. with 1,900 pounds of marijuana.
On October 12, 2002, Agent Arnold and his partner Border Patrol Agent Valerie Jaramillo pursued a narcotics load vehicle back to the Rio Grande River after it had entered the United States illegally. This occurred approximately 27 miles east of the Ft. Hancock, Texas Port of Entry.
The driver abandoned the vehicle (containing 1,900 pounds of marijuana) and crossed back into Mexico. The driver, along with several other armed assailants, began shooting into the United States at these agents. Agents Arnold and Jaramillo were ambushed and came under heavy gunfire. Agent Jaramillo was shot in the leg and the same bullet narrowly missed Agent Arnold. Additional rounds struck the engine compartment and battery, disabling their vehicle.
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Herbert L. Williams entered the area as back up and took heavy fire. Agent Arnold returned fire from cover. Agent Williams positioned his vehicle in the line of fire to provide additional cover so that Agent Jaramillo could be extracted safely. Agents in self-defense of the heavy automatic gunfire fired over 240 rounds. Agent Arnold removed Agent Jaramillo to Agent Williams vehicle and then left the scene to meet with a medical helicopter. Agent Williams provided cover fire as they left the area, at which time they were continuing to take heavy fire from Mexico. Agent Williams was able to safely get out of the line of fire and Agent Jaramillo subsequently recovered from her gunshot wound.
As of March 6, 2023 the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 155* fallen.
The following names hold a distinguished position, as they have made the ultimate sacrifice in their unwavering commitment to uphold the oath each officer took to protect and defend the United States of America.
The facts concerning each officer are presented with minimal editing to preserve the "language of the day" found in the original reports, providing readers with a sense of historical context.
In compliance with the Privacy Act of 1974, the cause of death for employees who lost their lives in the line of duty due to exposure to lethal illnesses will not be disclosed.
* Please note that despite their deaths meeting the criteria for Line-of-Duty-Deaths at the time, Patrol Inspector Garvis Field Harrell and Border Patrol Agent John Charles Gigax are not officially recognized as fallen by either the Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. Border Patrol. However, HonorFirst.com respectfully recognizes and includes both Inspector Harrell and Agent Gigax among those who have fallen in the line of duty.
Henley M. Goode, Jr.
Date of Birth: April 7, 1929
Entered on Duty: August 24, 1953
Title: Patrol Inspector
End of Watch: October 11, 1969
During the morning of September 6, 1969, Patrol Inspector Henley M. Goode, Jr. was injured when he fell on the steps of the U.S. Post Office Building, Fort Fairfield, Maine. He had just departed the Border Patrol Office on the second floor of the building and as he neared the lobby level, he tripped and fell a short distance to the lobby floor. There were no witnesses to the accident, but several postal employees heard the sound of someone falling and a voice calling for help.
They responded immediately, and obtained a doctor and an ambulance. Examination revealed Patrol Inspector Goode had sustained a fractured left kneecap (Patella). He died unexpectedly on October 11, 1969, at the Fort Fairfield Community Hospital. His death was attributed to pulmonary embolus.
David H. Gray
Entered on Duty: March 21, 2016
Title: Enforcement Analysis Specialist
End of Watch: October 8, 2021
EAS Gray entered on duty on March 21, 2016. At the time of his passing, he was assigned to the Sector Intelligence Unit in Houlton Sector, Maine. Before joining the U.S. Border Patrol, EAS Grey honorably served his country for 20 years in the U.S. Navy. The circumstances of his passing were reviewed by an executive panel and the CBP Commissioner who determined that this death occurred in the line of duty. He is survived by his son, Harris; daughter, Marsilla; mother: Velva; and sister, Sandra.
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Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Supervisory Border Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
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