Securing the U.S. Border: A day in the life of a border patrol agent

By KBJR News 1

July 28, 2014 Updated Jul 28, 2014 at 10:23 PM CDT

International Falls, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The international border between the United States and Canada is the longest in the world.

Much of the border is comprised of forest and water often making it difficult to patrol.

While the Border Patrol's mission is to stop terrorists from crossing into the U.S., agents are also tasked with stopping any illegal drug flow.

Sometimes, the fishing is good near the Canadian border.

"There are big ones, there are little ones, and there are some keepers," Jim Rolando, an angler living in International Falls said.

He and his buddy George Crow are headed out onto Rainy Lake for the day.

"I'm going to go out and catch some walleyes," Crow said.

Two U.S. Border Patrol agents help ease their boat into the lake from the landing at the Rainy Lake Visitors Center.

If they aren't helping people at the docks or patrolling by car or on foot, you can expect to see agents out on the water.

"Our mission is to prevent terrorists form coming in and to secure our borders from illegal entry, from people, and the goods coming in to the U.S.,” Agent Kirk Aili said.

To do that, Aili says they're constantly looking for anything illegal, potentially dangerous or out of place.

"We aren't here to interfere with their activities; we are just here to make sure that the public is safe," Agent Mike Guziec said.

If you're out on the water, you're subject to a vessel check.

"It's usually a friendly encounter; just to find out what's going on,” Guziec said. “[We find out] how everybody is doing for the day, if everything is safe, if they are having any problems, or good times. We'll ask people if they've seen anything suspicious."

The International Falls sector patrols 178 miles from Ely to Birchdale. With mostly uncharted wilderness, securing and protecting the border can sometimes be a challenging task.

"It’s often difficult just to distinguish between a regular fisherman and someone who might be doing illegal activity," Aili said.

To do so, they rely heavily on tips from the public.

"There is so much border to cover, we can't be everywhere all the time," Guziec said.

Agents say drug trafficking isn't prevalent in the Borderland.

"It's been a few years since we've interdicted any drugs coming across the border,” Agent Derek Mason said. “I can't say that it's not happening or it's dried up. But we haven't seen it here in quite some time."

Ten years ago border patrol agents in International Falls made what turned out to be one of the biggest drug busts in Minnesota history, uncovering a pipeline of drug traffic between Canada and the U.S.

“This is barely a drop in the bucket,” Sgt. Bruce Grothberg, Koochiching County Sheriff said in 2005. “This is nothing. There is so much BC bud, there's so much drug traffic, illicit drug traffic across the border, it’s just unbelievable.”

Since September 11, 2001, security has been stepped up to strengthen and reinforce the border.

Time and resources are spent educating the public of check-in requirements at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"The major thing that we see here is that people fail to report into the U.S.,” Aili said.

Anyone who is on board a vessel entering the U.S. must report to the CBP to show citizenship.

Within the International Falls patrol area, there are four points of entry and one outlying area reporting station.

If you need help in the Borderland, Agents Aili and Guziec say, just ask.

"You can come and talk to us, we are always available for answering any questions," Aili said.

"There is a lot of room up in this country,” Rolando said. “We all go our own way, and enjoy the beauty of this area.

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol plans to hire 2,000 additional officers nationwide by the end of 2015.

Agent Mason says the International Falls and Twin Ports sectors will not get any new hires.

Jennifer Walch
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