THE MAGAZINE

North By Northwest

By Matthew Harwood

In his testimony, Senate CBP Commissioner Bersin said “Resident agents are ideally suited for providing the field commanders with an unprecedented level of situational awareness within remote areas of the border.”

A specific example of how the program is working occurred last year in Williston, North Dakota, when Eduardo Moreno-Othon, an illegal Mexican immigrant, applied for a job with three other illegal aliens using fraudulent immigration documents. Finding the documents suspicious, the prospective employer called the Williston Police Department.

The department reached out to resident agents. The agents ran their information through the federal CBP database and determined that they were, in fact, illegal aliens. After taking the four individuals into custody, border patrol discovered that this was not the first time Moreno-Othon had entered the country illegally. He had been deported in 2004 and had been convicted of a felony drug-trafficking offense. He was subsequently convicted of reentering the country as a deported alien. He is currently serving 41 months in federal prison.

“From my perspective, having resident agents embedded in smaller communities along the northern border creates a situation of community policing and close working relationships that results in these sorts of referrals,” said United States Attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, whose office worked the Moreno-Othon case. “Without the Border Patrol folks being out in communities like they are, it would be very difficult to service the entire area from the Grand Forks Sector headquarters, which is over 300 miles from the western border of North Dakota.”

Pigg equates the strategy to community policing. “Placement of resident agents in these locations provides the resident agents with the ability to communicate more easily with the sheriff’s offices, county government, and community leaders,” he says.

And it enhances reporting from residents. “Before, if somebody noticed something suspicious, they would wait to tell the border patrol because they knew they would come around in the next couple of days,” he says. “Now that they know that these agents are available right there in their communities or nearby, they know who to call if they see something suspicious,” he says.

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