Former Latino Border Agent Wants to Change Negative Portrayal of Border Agents
Changing misconceptions can prove difficult, especially when politics and laws are involved. However, former Border Patrol agent Vincent Vargas is up to the challenge and more than ready to share his perspective on the reality of this job.
In his book, “Borderline, Defending the Home Front,” this Mexican-American writer, producer, and actor actively focuses on altering the narrative and reshaping how people perceive border agents, often viewed as scapegoats or villains.
In an interview with mitú, Vargas discussed his reasons for serving the United States and his mission to change the negative portrayal of border agents, which he believes is related to media representation.
“I believe this is mainly because of one-sided media coverage that often fails to distinguish between the Border Patrol, Customs, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” he said.
Adding, “This confusion contributes to misconceptions and a lack of authentic insights into the daily operations and challenges these agents face.”
Vargas depicts the complexities of border patrol agents’ commitment to fair immigration enforcement
Vargas points out that when people are in this role, they must fulfill dual missions: ensuring homeland security and implementing a fair immigration policy that accommodates legal immigration and those seeking asylum.
He finds it complicated to balance these two realities. Officers must protect the nation from terrorist threats while upholding the values of being the land of opportunity. The border separating the U.S. and Mexico runs almost 2,000 miles, passing through mountains, deserts, and rivers.
“It’s important to note that our field, comprising 70% Hispanic agents, involves making complex decisions in handling individuals seeking refuge,” he says. “Our primary responsibility is to apprehend and process these cases for ICE and immigration judges, not to determine their outcomes.”
An Army veteran, Vargas became passionate about serving the U.S. domestically
Vargas was born in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California. His father, a former gang member, was Puerto Rican and served as a Marine before becoming an LA City firefighter. Meanwhile, his mother was Mexican-American and worked as a secretary for the LA Unified School District.
Growing up, he engaged in sports to avoid the prevalent gang culture in the area. He also played college baseball, later enlisting in the Army, after losing a full ride scholarship.
He became a U.S. Border Agent in 2009 because he wanted to serve his country domestically rather than overseas in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Back then, homeland security was a topic of discussion, leading him to learn about the special operations teams, which sparked his interest.
Working in border patrol taught him about this field’s complexity and often misunderstood nature.
“This role plays a crucial role in saving lives and intercepting drugs, more so than any other agency in the U.S.,” he says. “It’s a career that requires law enforcement and a deep sense of empathy, balancing protecting human lives with enforcing laws.”
With almost a decade in retirement, he believes the most fulfilling aspect of this job was saving lives
Vargas quit the Border Patrol in 2015. At 42, he lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and eight children.
Witnessing the loss of life among migrants during their attempts to cross the southern border was one of the most challenging aspects of this career. Conversely, the most rewarding part was being in operations that led to over 100 rescues.
For those considering the military, Vargas thinks it’s a platform to learn skills that could be financially out of reach. He claims the military can significantly improve any person’s socioeconomic status, and not all roles involve frontline risks.
“My success can be attributed to my fearlessness of failure and my commitment to hard work. I’ve never set mental limits for myself. I am a dyslexic, a screenwriter in Hollywood, and an author. If you want something bad enough, go get it,” he concluded.