Even before President Trump arrived on the scene with his anti-immigrant agenda, the agency gave every sign of being a moral and ethical mess. In 2014, the former head of internal affairs for Customs and Border Protection — the Border Patrol is a subdivision of that agency — went public with accusations that Border Patrol leaders tried to change or distort facts to exonerate agents involved in more than two dozen deadly clashes since 2010. “In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand,” James F. Tomsheck said at the time. Nothing seems to have changed: As recently as last year, court filings in the case of an agent accused of killing a migrant revealed racist text messages between the defendant and other agents.
Despite that record, the Border Patrol’s budget more than doubled from 2003 to 2015 — thanks to a post-9/11 emphasis on border security, plus efforts by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to crack down on undocumented migrants in the vain hopes they could get conservatives in Congress to meet them halfway on immigration reform. Thousands of new agents were hired — critics said many were unfit for the job — and deportations increased dramatically, but an immigration compromise never materialized.