On Wednesday, September 7, nearly 200 demonstrators gathered near a community college in Charlotte, NC to protest the deportation of undocumented students in this country. At the rally, at least 10 young undocumented individuals publicly announced that they were living in this country illegally, all of whom were later arrested. To many, the bold tactics of this group of protesters may have seemed exceptionally risky. However, to former Border Patrol agent turned migrant activist John Randolph, this act represents an opening step towards what he hopes will become a more widespread effort among undocumented individuals in this country to step out of the shadows and fight for reform of this country’s immigration system.
Speaking to the risk the Charlotte students took in publicly announcing their undocumented status, Randolph argues, “I don’t think the Dream Act kids are going to put up with the government again making promises and doing nothing. . . They know they can not wait twenty or thirty years until something is actually done.” And Randolph has a plan that he argues could help push the U.S. government to actually make the necessary reforms it has continuously put off making.
John Randolph worked for twenty-six years as a Border Patrol agent in the city of El Cajon, Calif., just east of San Diego. After a career spent witnessing Border Patrol colleagues as well as their undocumented targets frequently injured and sometimes killed as a result of the agency’s pursuits, Randolph retired in frustration in 2005. Today he uses his sad, stressful, yet enlightening experiences working at the border to spread awareness of immigrant issues and the need for dramatic U.S. policy reform.
“In my mind, frustration was a big part of what we were being paid to do and accept. That was the job,” Randolph says about his work with the Border Patrol. He assumes that his colleagues in the agency largely shared this sense of frustration, but he says that they did not spend a great deal of time discussing it. “I think that we focused upon what we were doing in the moment and did not worry about the big picture,” he says. For him, if Border Patrol agents were to look too deeply at the job they were doing, their frustration would make doing the job impossible.
For Randolph, the exasperation he felt working for the Border Patrol came from what he saw as the failure of both the U.S. and Mexican governments to effectively protect their citizens. Time and again, the two countries have failed to curb Mexican immigration into the U.S. or to tackle the violence that is raging at the border. For Randolph, this failure is calculated, as both the Mexican government, overpowered by influential criminal syndicates, as well as the U.S. government, overpowered by corporate elites, profit off of this situation at the expense of human life. U.S. corporations need the cheap labor they get through undocumented migration into this country, while Mexican drug cartels profit off of drug and human trafficking .Neither of these two powerful groups stands to benefit from effectively closing off this border or attacking the criminal activity that pervades it.
Randolph argues, therefore, that it would be foolhardy to wait for either of these two countries’ governments to solve the problems at the border. For him, it is crucial that Mexican and U.S. citizens take matters into their own hands and come together to fight for change.
This is part 1 of a two part interview with John Randolph. Read part 2 here.