Recently published data by U.S. Customs and Border Protection reveals a high number of assaults on Border Patrol agents, even though immigrant arrests were down.
In the 18 years since signing up with the Border Patrol, Agent Christopher Hamer had never come so close to a deadly situation like the one he encountered last year.
“He would’ve done whatever he need to do, including harming me, in order to get away from me that night,” Agent Hamer recalled. “You don’t have any idea of what their history is or what they’re capable of doing.”
Hamer was chasing a human smuggler on foot one February night in the ranches of Falfurrias near a Border Patrol checkpoint.
“I realized he wasn’t going to stop, so I tackled him by the legs. We both fell to the ground,” Hamer described.
The agent was alone and was calling for backup when the suspect reportedly stripped the radio off of his vest.
“He started hitting me on the side of the head with a closed fist, all along the side of my face,” said Hamer, who struggled to restrain the suspect. “I see in his right hand, he has a like a lock blade pocket knife. My first reaction instantly is, ‘control the knife.’”
The agent was able to pin the man’s hand to the ground and control the situation.
He said that what seemed like an endless fight to get the man to surrender lasted about five minutes. That’s when backup finally arrived.
This case is just one of 847 assaults against Customs and Border Protection agents in 2017 compared to 584 in 2016, a 45 percent rise.
“While the border apprehensions are actually down, the assaults on Border Patrol agents has increased,” Hamer noted. “The people that are coming here are more desperate, the people that are smuggling them are more desperate, the people that are making the money smuggling people over here are becoming more desperate.”
The trend continues, with 230 assaults reported from October to the end of January.
“It’s important that we don’t get complacent, no matter who we encounter,” he said.
Hamer knows that making it harder for smuggling organizations to operate also means that his job has become more dangerous.