EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A former senior U.S. Border Patrol agent is on a one-woman mission along the U.S.-Mexico border to dispel immigration myths.

“You can actually have security on the border and also have a humane asylum,” Jenn Budd told KTSM 9 News during a stop in El Paso on Monday. “What we have over and over again is that we don’t have a robust asylum system.”

Budd said that part of the problem is that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents are trained to combat issues like human trafficking and drug smuggling, not to care for children and adults escaping severe humanitarian crises.

“We’re treating asylum-seekers — which is a humanitarian issue and a legal right — with law enforcement. So we’re handling a humanitarian issue with a law enforcement tool,” Budd said.

Budd’s and other advocates’ calls for comprehensive immigration reform comes as GOP leaders in Texas work to garner support for the state’s own border wall. Last week, former President Donald Trump met with Gov. Greg Abbott, where the Texas governor urged President Joe Biden to complete the miles and miles of a border wall that Trump started.

“We’ve already begun clearing out land, acquiring land, we’re going to begin the process of putting the border wall up just like President Trump did and just like President Biden should be doing,” Abbott said. 

A recent report from the American Immigration Council found that rising border encounters in 2021 are emblematic of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, not a border security challenge. The analysis emphasizes that both former Presidents Obama and Trump employed deterrence-based policies — Obama detained families, while Trump separated them and implemented the “Remain in Mexico” policy — that were more detrimental than effective, the report said. 

Data shows that Trump’s family separation policy did not have a significant effect on border encounters, and the volume of migrants arriving at the border in 2019 were already on the decline when “Remain in Mexico,” officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols program, was implemented. 

(Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Southwest Border Encounters.)

Despite GOP fervor to erect more border walls, the CBP data and Budd’s experience suggest more efficient actions could be taken.

“I knew the border before the walls came, I knew the border after the walls came,” Budd said. “No wall has ever stopped a migrant; no wall has ever stopped narcotics, and no wall will ever stop a terrorist. … You cannot deter people who are running for their lives.”

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