A 22-year veteran Border Patrol agent says the only thing that is new about the separation of families is the number of separations.
“So when I say nothing’s changed, I mean the process hasn’t changed,” Border Patrol agent Terrence Shigg said in his role as president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) Local 1613 in San Diego during an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin. “As far as separating families–that’s not the new portion of it. The new portion of it is the scale of it.”
Shigg agreed that the number of families being separated increased over previous years, but explained the conditions under which the migrants are held has improved dramatically, especially for unaccompanied minors.
The veteran Border Patrol agent said that during the influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children that erupted in 2014, the agency was not prepared to properly house them. We’re set up for incarcerating those that we encounter because when we encounter someone, we’re arresting them. So we only had jail cells. So we were putting unaccompanied minors into pretty much jails.”
“And it was our agents that went to the command staff and went to the public and said, OK, hey, we need to do something different,” Shigg explained. “We don’t want to be housing the minors in cells.”
At about that time, Breitbart Texas editor-in-chief Brandon published leaked photos of the children being held in the “jail cells” Shigg described. The publication of the leaked photos caused an international response with many media outlets looking into conditions along the U.S.-Mexico Border for the first time.
Shigg explained the decision was made to use the space blankets is because “there was a lot of scabies and lice, ticks. I mean, and those things are common if you’re traversing cross-country for, you know, 30, 60 days, that makes sense. So that’s why they went away from the wool blankets to those type of space blankets that they can be disposed of. And it cuts down on the likelihood of those types of things spreading.”