SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - It’s not an easy time to be a Border Patrol agent. There are daily protests at sector headquarters across the nation, and the agency’s every move is scrutinized after migrant families who crossed the border illegally or were seeking asylum were separated.
10News Anchor Steve Atkinson spent an afternoon with San Diego Sector Chief Rodney Scott touring 14 miles of San Diego’s border and discussed how he manages our security in such turbulent times.
“It’s all about balance, trying to balance the safety and security with everything this country stands for,” says Chief Rodney Scott.
Balance, just another word for harmony, which is a challenging tone to achieve these days for the man responsible for San Diego’s border security.
“Trying to infuse evidence and facts in a very emotional based discussion or dialogue is challenging a lot of times,” adds Chief Scott.
While much of the criticism for separating migrant families at the border has taken place in Texas, Chief Scott has had his share of objections.
“Opening that gate, it’s not good for anybody anyway. It’s not a port of entry,” says Chief Scott standing in front of an 18-foot tall iron fence.
Scott is talking about the massive gate, known to many as the “Door of Hope” at the very western end of the U.S. Border. It’s opened only occasionally for families separated between Mexico and the United States to reunite and briefly embrace. But when a criminal background check surfaced on one participant in November, Scott closed the gate permanently.
“Even for families just having the opportunity to hug each other?” asks Atkinson. “We experimented if you will with some very small events,” replies Chief Scott. “I’m committed to keeping this area open allowing access on the weekends. But I’m not going to create this artificial port of entry if you will. So that will stay closed for the time being? Yes."
Some claim Scott is abusing his power, especially at a time when civility is needed.
“This was one of the most violent areas in all of San Diego when I first got here,” says Chief Scott pointing towards a deep canyon.
But to understand his reasoning, you must also realize that Chief Scott was a rookie border agent in the 90’s and was here when there was no massive infrastructure, and witnessed a time when illegal migrants outnumbered border agents.
“People that wanted to cross illegally would just mix in with the legitimate population, and then we called it a bonsai because you would be sitting here, it’s nice and quiet and the next thing you know there are 50 to 100 people just rushing the beach,” says Scott.
Scott claims that tighter security has led to a return of wildlife in the Tijuana Estuary and construction on both sides of the border where developers once shied away.
“If you talk about myopic parts of border security and you carve them out, it kind of does an injustice to the entire discussion about the benefits of border security,” says Scott.
Scott tries to emphasize his point showing us how the border fence, as secure as it may appear, is still under a constant barrage. He claims repairs are needed daily because of smugglers cutting through constantly. He points out what Border Patrol considers one of the most vulnerable areas for illegal crossings.
“There are several families here that go back three or four generations, and that’s their source of income is smuggling people across the border,” says Scott standing across the border from a Tijuana neighborhood known as Colonial Libertad.
Along the 14 mile tour, we see where there is no wall, only manpower to stop illegal crossings. And finally, we end up where the future begins, or at least President Trump’s vision of a more secure southern border. An image that represents division and a disconnect with our neighbors to the south. But Scott again calls it a balance. Maintaining that a secure border is a safe border.
“We’re not at war with Mexico,” says Scott. “It’s not about anti-anything with border infrastructure. It’s about law and order, safety and security.”