Border Patrol Agent Dies in the Desert

Underscoring the dangers of an often vilified job

By Andrew R. Arthur on October 11, 2019

I have written previously about how dangerous illegal crossings of the Southwest border are for the migrants who voluntarily undertake that journey. News out of Arizona on October 7, 2019, of the death of a Border Patrol agent in the line of duty underscores the dangers for those who are charged with enforcing the law, as well.

A 44-year-old agent, Robert Hotten, was found unconscious by fellow agents on Sunday afternoon. The 10-year veteran of the Border Patrol had been responding to an activated ground sensor on Mount Washington, east of Nogales, Ariz., on October 6. Roy Villareal, the chief of the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector stated: "When Agent Hotten was found unresponsive, it appears that he had fallen and may have hit his head on some rocks, but again at this stage we don't know that was the cause of death."

The sensor was believed to have been triggered by a group of seven migrants moving through the area, and in accordance with protocol, Agent Hotten (who had been working alongside two other agents) was investigating the incident by himself. The two other agents went searching for him when he did not respond to radio calls. He was found in rugged terrain, and the efforts of the other two agents to revive him were unsuccessful, so they had to carry him to a spot a quarter of a mile away where he could be airlifted. He was pronounced dead at a hospital in Nogales.

Certain members of Congress have been harshly critical of the Border Patrol and its agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), particularly as CBP has faced a surge of aliens travelling in family units and unaccompanied alien children in the past year. For example, in July, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) stated that the government should consider eliminating CBP, including it with "rogue agencies that have no accountability, no transparency in how they conduct their business." She continued: "We know they have spoken in the most vile ways about immigrants."

Similarly, the Washington Examiner reported in July that Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) stated:

So disproportionately, black and brown people, because you don't even need a high school diploma to be a CBP officer, their only pathway to the middle class is to work for CBP. And they are now a part of this larger machine, a cog, in the oppression and incarceration of people who look just like them.

Those members, and other critics, are apparently unaware of (or simply don't care about) the critical, but dangerous job that those agents perform.

Border Patrol agents work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in all sorts of weather and in the most hazardous of environments. In addition to apprehending more than 811,000 migrants in FY 2019 through September, those agents have also seized 11,362 pounds of cocaine, 661 pounds of heroin, 13,441 pounds of methamphetamine, and 210 pounds of fentanyl. Not to mention their apprehension this fiscal year of 445 members of MS-13, a gang that has been named by the Justice Department as a "top transnational organized crime threat". Those agents also risk their lives to save those who endanger themselves and their children by breaking the law.

Agent Hotten's death should remind all of us of the fact that this critical duty is undertaken at great peril to those agents' lives. In fact, he was the 14th agent from the Tucson sector who has died in the line of duty.

He left behind a wife and son.