On March 9, 2022, the Mosbacher Institute’s Borders and Migration Program hosted Gloria I. Chavez, Chief Patrol Agent of the El Paso Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, to give a talk entitled “Securing America’s Border in Theory and Practice.” The event was part of The Other Side of the Border: Ties That Bind and Issues That Divide speaker series organized by Bush School Assistant Professor Aileen Teague, who also served as moderator.
Chief Chavez started by briefly introducing the Border Patrol Agency, which as she illustrated is the largest Federal law enforcement agency in the United States, with around 19,000 agents. The agency covers the northern, coastal, and southern borders of the United States with the mission to discover and stop the illicit movement of people and products across the borders. Chief Chavez supplemented her introduction with a short video about the El Pasto sector of the Border Patrol Agency and its mission.
Having introduced the agency and its mission, Chief Chavez spoke about the agency’s efforts to enhance the ability of its personnel to fulfil their mission. According to Chavez, the agency has consistently used state of the art technology, particularly autonomous surveillance technology and automated computer systems, to assist the agents in surveillance and in the processing of people more rapidly and efficiently. Similarly, the agency has invested in various resources, such as border barriers, to prevent the entry of vehicles smuggling people or narcotics, give the agents more time to respond and make arrests, and increase the safety of the officers.
In addition to investing in technology and resources, Chavez argued that the agency considers its personnel to be its most valued asset. Thus, the agency invests in constantly preparing and training its uniform agents on patrol, its non-uniform personnel behind the scenes, and its intelligence analysts. Moreover, the agency partners with other law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels, as well as non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, and academia for training, research, and development purposes.
Following her speech, Chavez sat down with Bush School Assistant Professor Aileen Teague for an on-stage discussion of the various challenges facing her agency, including the politicization of border issues, particularly on the southern border with Mexico, which makes it difficult for the agents to effectively focus on performing their job. Chavez also spoke about the attention paid to the morale of her agents, who are often subject to harsh media criticism that impacts them and, in some cases, their families too. To address this issue, Chavez added, the agency has expanded its support programs and behavioral health services, including therapy for the agents. Moreover, the agency has increased its work flexibility, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, to allow civilian agents to work from home whenever possible.
Finally, Chavez responded to questions from the audience about several topics including the challenge of identifying bad actors at the borders, the adequacy of border barriers, cooperation with state and federal agencies, and the extra challenges of increasing migration flows. Earlier in the day, Chavez met with students and faculty and participated in a student-led discussion with a group of Bush School students.
You can view Chief Chavez’s talk on the Bush School YouTube Channel.