the north face arctic parka sale Border Patrol campaign puts a face to human smuggling
FALFURRIAS Border Patrol agents are hoping to end the criminal careers of dozens of human smugglers by putting their faces on billboards seen by thousands every day.
Doyle Amidon, patrol agent in charge at the Falfurrias border patrol station, said the aim of this new “Se Busca” campaign is to not only ask the public for help locating these wanted individuals, but also to inform their bosses that these smugglers are on their watch list, with hopes that they will be ousted.
“This is for the general public so they have a venue to assist us,” Amidon said during a news conference Tuesday. “But this is also for the higher level folks in the organization that say, ‘Hey, that’s one of my workers. I can’t use that guy anymore.'”
Amidon said since the launch of the program in March they have arrested three of the smugglers whose faces appeared on the board, including one just five days ago whose face still had a large duct tape “X” over it Tuesday.
“We leave it for seven days just so the public can see that if they give information it will result in something, but after seven days we pull that X off and we put a fresh face on the billboard,” Amidon said.
There are nine stations across the Rio Grande Valley sector which spans more than 1,100 square miles. Each station gets to submit one smuggler to be included on the board except for the McAllen station, which is currently the busiest sector, which gets two.
At the checkpoint here the 10 foot wooden sign stands a few feet from the northbound lanes where more than 10,
500 vehicles cross daily, making it the most productive checkpoint in the sector, Amidon said. Plans to expand the campaign are currently in the works and he said they hope to one day have a separate billboard with faces of migrants who have been reported missing in the area.
“This is also about saving lives,” Amidon said. “Beyond just talking about what it is, we want to put faces to the problem.” Migrant deaths in the sector are up about 9 percent so far this fiscal year, with 35 compared to 32 at the same time last year, Amidon said.
Advertising the faces of identified smugglers on billboards near ports of entry or checkpoints is a tactic first launched in California in 2010 which has also been adopted by Arizona. Amidon credited Sector Chief Manuel Padilla, who formerly served in Arizona, for the idea to incorporate the new campaign to their fight against human smuggling.
In April, Padilla also launched the “Depicting the Adversary” campaign which aimed at painting human smugglers as “unscrupulous criminals” and targets them with the help of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“We know how these smugglers behave, but we don’t think the public knows, so we want to shine the flashlight on these people,” Amidon said. “I’ve talked many times about how they behave and how for them the bottom line is the profit margin. If a member of the group walking through the brush cannot keep up,
they will leave that person for dead. It happens here a lot.”