AUSTIN, Texas – Thousands of U.S. Border Patrol Agents are among the vast population of federal workers who had until November 8 to officially stake their position, in line with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate, as to whether they will choose taking the Covid-19 vaccination or job termination.
This week, all agents had to register their vaccination status in an internal database portal created for the purpose, where they also could request an exemption on one of several grounds.
While total numbers of agents who requested an exemption over vaccination may not be publicly known for some time, some media reporting suggests that many hundreds and potentially thousands of the Border Patrol’s 17,000 agents have chosen to subject themselves to job termination. (State and federal workers, including one from Border Patrol, have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate’s constitutionality.)
Termination losses will certainly impact all federal agencies under the Biden mandate, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, of which the Border Patrol is a part, and the military. But how the vaccine mandate plays out with the Border Patrol stands as somewhat unique in that this force is in the thick of an historically profound mass-migration crisis where current staffing levels already have proven insufficient to staunch the highest levels of illegal entries in American history.
Because what happens next with this one agency may have outsized influence on the trajectory of the American border crisis and impact all Americans, the Center for Immigration Studies reached out to three front-line Border Patrol agents who have chosen job termination over vaccination. CIS asked the three agents – two men and one woman – to explain the thinking behind their personally momentous decisions, describe what the decision is like inside the agency, and what their prospective terminations might mean to the nation.
Front-line Border Patrol agents are not authorized to speak publicly, and so CIS agreed to protect their identities as a means to enhance their candor, describing them only as Border Patrol Agent 1, Border Patrol Agent 2 and Border Patrol Agent 3. What follows are lightly edited transcripts of their comments in the conversations with them.
Screenshot of a religious exemption claim on a new form, as shared with the Center for Immigration Studies.
The Reasons Why
Border Patrol Agent 1:
There were three factors. My main reason I’m not getting is I don’t really trust the vaccine and I feel there were a lot of red flags surrounding it. It came out too fast. They didn’t go through the proper channels and even the approval process was questionable. I don’t trust it because of the circumstances in which it came out. I feel as an American citizen I have a right to do what I want with my own body. Secondly, I don’t feel the federal government should tell me I have to be mandated to get this vaccine in my body. It might be different if this vaccine went through five or six years of trial. But just the way it came about was kind of sketchy.
Another reason, which really should be the first reason is I’m pretty devout in my faith. I believe God gave me the knowledge and free will to have control over my own body. I do believe my body is a temple. After doing my own research in finding out the processes of how these vaccines got through using aborted fetal tissues . . . that’s just not right to me.
Another thing that caught me off guard was them [Border Patrol management] inquiring about my health. Management was told they have to inquire about every single agent’s status, if they were vaccinated. Even the supervisors knew this was a HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996] violation. It’s kind of ironic. ‘We know it’s a violation but you still have answer,’ our supervisors said. I do not wish to disclose that information.
Honestly, it caught me off guard. I honestly thought they were bluffing. It was so completely absurd. It was absurd because the most obvious point is that we have millions of people crossing that we arrest on a daily basis. And at no point are they offered vaccines. To have Border Patrol agents get this vaccine or lose their job is kind of hypocritical. For a 99 percent survival rate for people who get Covid, this kind of thing is completely unacceptable.
Border Patrol Agent 2:
Mostly everybody who got Covid recently . . . we all got sick when we got the mass migration . . . a lot of agents who got the shot seemed to be a lot worse off than me. They’re all having heart problems and I’m not. When I got Covid, my doctor recommended to not get the shot for at least three to four months after being positive because it could get me sick again. That told me it’s best not to get it. He said, ‘you’d be sick as a dog if you did it.’ That’s really scary stuff coming from a doctor. Nobody seems to be fully informed. Even the doctors don’t seem to be fully confident knowing everything about it.
I just don’t know enough about this, what it could cause for me to feel comfortable enough to do it. In a way I was kind of blessed because it [getting Covid recently] gave me a little bit of time [to avoid declaring that she will get a vaccination]. But I am not going to get the shot after the 90 days are up. For one thing, I may not be done having children. They tell us make an informed decision, right? But where do I go for that information, the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the place that put out information and then retracts it? Who do you really trust for information about this at this point?
I’m not an anti-vaxxer but I just don’t feel comfortable when I’ve spoken to different doctors who have different opinions. My personal opinion of the situation is that it just feels political. It does not feel like they’re trying to protect us. It just feels like a political stunt.
Border Patrol Agent 3:
I put in a religious exemption. And it will more than likely 100 percent be denied because of it. For me, I have issues in regards to how it was portrayed in the media and I could see that this was just a political move for power. Based on a lack of science, data, influence operations, you name it. I saw it as a power move and unconstitutional. The exemption I put in was that I religiously believe this is unconstitutional. I revere the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. That our rights are given by God and that God chose our founders to write a document to secure those rights and a way forward for those responsible for protecting those rights.
The vaccine mandate is a violation of my rights as they are coming from God.
Other than that, it’s standing up to tyranny. I believe that the current federal government and its institutions are backsliding away from our foundation and its Constitution. The current leaders of each agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House, are no longer in line. That made my decision a lot easier.
The Pain of Choosing Between Personal Convictions and Economic Loss
Border Patrol Agent 1:
I had a few doubts. I was on the line about maybe getting it. It was to the point where I scheduled the appointment. I went to the appointment and got very frustrated that I have to put this thing in my body. The frustration came at that point was: am I in America? Is this really America? Because in the America I know you have rights. And this isn’t right. That’s what I was thinking sitting in the parking lot. A light bulb went off and I thought, ‘I do have rights. I am in America.’ And I walked out. I think eventually the right thing will prevail and that’s what I’m hoping for.
I love my job. I think it’s an important job. I wake up and I enjoy what I do and I enjoy the people I work with. I honestly don’t want to be fired. It’s an important job because we’re the first line of defense in regards to immigration. We have people from all over the place: sex traffickers, pedophiles, felons from all over, an abundance of gang members. It’s an everyday thing. Seeing an MS-13 gang member is not an uncommon thing. I’m stopping those people from coming into American and doing us harm.
It’s been very stressful. I’m going to be honest. I’ve lost some weight strictly on stress alone. It’s a pretty good weight loss program with your livelihood at risk. Every morning it’s the same exact thing and instead of focusing on my actual job I’m more focused about, OK what are these threats about disciplinary action? Is the union going to have my back? The Border Patrol union is completely useless in my opinion. Even if I get fired and I get to come back, will there be resentment from the chain of command because I didn’t go along?
Luckily I have a pretty good cushion. I save my money. I’m engaged. I only have one dependent. I could survive for a pretty good amount of time, definitely enough to find another job. But that’s not the case for the majority of agents. Most have substantial payments and I don’t think they’ll be able to make it for long without a job.
After talking to them, if it wasn’t for their paychecks, a lot of my co-workers would not get the jab.
Border Patrol Agent 2:
I used to love my job. I used to love the idea of protecting America. I was front line. I felt like I was doing my part. Also knowing that with this job I could provide for my children and family. I felt like it was the best choice so I could have good benefits for my children. But now I feel like I’m almost hated for doing my job by anybody that knows I’m an agent, just looks at you funny since the new administration. It’s definitely going to affect my financial status, for sure.
I honestly didn’t think it was actually going to be something that would happen. Like, there’s no way they’re going to force me to get the shot in order for me to keep my job. When I found out it was true, it was shocking. I’m very stressed out. It’s basically like you’re put into a rock and a hard place. What do you do? How am I going to continue to provide the way I’m providing for my children?
I’m trying to do everything I can hoping I can make enough money to quit Border Patrol or enough that [a termination] won’t affect me. But I would lose my [xx] years of service that I put in. I don’t think it’s right for me to have to do it in order for me to keep my job and those years. It’s my right to choose whether I want to get this vaccine that I’m just not so sure about.
So I guess I don’t mind termination if it means me keeping that right.
I would rather just get fired if that’s what it’s going to come down because I fear for my health and if I’m going to inject something that I’m not very informed about . . . and I know other vaccines, when you’re a child and are in public school . . . I understand all that but I just feel this shot was too fast. I would rather be fired than have a possibility of me getting some sort of heart problem and dying and then what are my kids going to do?
I keep running that in my mind, which is costing me more stress so I try not to think about it until the day that I have to make the choice.
I’ll just let them discipline me rather than do it. It just feels like, to me, this shot feels like they’re preparing us for communism, like you’re going to do what I say and that’s it, or else. It started off low key and now it’s aggressive. You’re threatening mine and my children’s livelihood. I thought we were supposed to be a free country.
I don’t really have words to describe how I feel because this is unexpected. I never thought I would have to be in a situation like this. It doesn’t make sense.
Border Patrol Agent 3:
I’m not getting the vaccine. However, I had internal conflict as to whether I should put in a religious exemption or not. I feel that doing a religious exemption is still playing their game . . . like a compromise. I have four kids, so that’s the hard one. I had this discussion with my wife. It’s hard and the government knows that. It’s put all of the agents in a bind. Most waited all the way to November 8, hoping the lawsuits would work or something else would happen, until they had to do it. And they said, ‘I have nowhere else to go, so I’m getting the vaccine.’
But to me, it might be difficult, but there are many other roads you can take other than be a Border Patrol agent. It’s just going to be a challenge. You can look at this either as an obstacle happening to you, or happening for you. My wife and I decided that this economic obstacle is happening for us, beyond the scope of us just being a cog in the wheel. They don’t determine my worth. We saved and scrimped. We have some savings just in case. But other people do not. Throwing that carrot in front of agents and their families, of employment and a way to feed their families, is what they’re doing to us. Where they’re leading us with that carrot is to comply with any order that they give. But the sooner we all stand up in unity against this long train of abuses and usurpations in complete defiance and unity, the sooner we gain our freedom back.
It’s hard, I’m not going to lie. If it wasn’t for friends, and our faith knowing my worth . . . and I thought I had no other place to go, I would have to go make that decision. But I know there are many thousands of choices I could make. So I didn’t.
I can’t say I’ll miss my job. I do like our mission; our job has changed. They’re changing the game, our mission, our directives. I lament and mourn the loss of true mission. On the one hand, you know the border needs to be secured. On the other hand, it’s just an open door policy for mass migration. Our number one priority is processing these migrants into the United States as fast as humanly possible.
The writing is on the wall. They’re going to continue to push to completely get rid of any border security whatsoever. Now it’s just migrant care. We are subsidized human trafficking.
Getting fired is going to suck because I’ll have a civilian career where I’m not carrying a gun and defending the Constitution.
National impact of terminating Border Patrol agents mid-crisis
Border Patrol Agent 1:
Every agent who is not vaccinated today is going to hold the line all the way to the end. I don’t know everybody but I know at least 30 at my station who are going all the way, and there’s probably a lot more I don’t know.
If that happens and they fire all of us, that’s going to be a major public safety concern. To just lose all of us over a vaccine for a virus that has a 99 percent survival rate?! If they do go through with firing us, the country is going to have another one coming because we are already severely undermanned. They [drug traffickers, human smugglers, and illegal migrants] know that we’re weak. They know we’re already undermanned.
Border Patrol Agent 2:
I’m not as worried about migrants as much as I would terrorists. It would definitely alert terrorists; they would have a field day. We are pretty swamped. We are very short-staffed already.
Border Patrol Agent 3:
Whatever we see on our border is going to be seen in the soccer moms’ neighborhood. All these Karens are about to see something they’ve never seen before.
You can see all the other countries and their proxies who want to destroy us. You name it. It’s just going to be an open door to all of our enemies, whether state or non-state actors, 100 percent. They’re going to be able to do everything under the umbrella of immigration. It’s just going to let them operate with complete impunity, even more so than they’re doing now. We already see the growth of the cartels, which are already operating in every major American city.
We already see where this is going to go, into every town and city in America. You can name any country and any ideology whatsoever coming over the border. Every town is going to become a border town.
Judge, jury, job executioner
Border Patrol Agent 1:
When you answer no, you have option to submit for a medical or religious exemption. I said no and submitted a religious exemption. But the questions were extremely biased. The first one is somewhere along the lines of, ‘if you were approved for this accommodation, what are you going to do to prevent spreading Covid to your co-workers?’ The next one was, ‘have you had any previous vaccines?’, a HIPAA question they have no business knowing. Third question was a follow up: ‘if you had vaccines in the past, what is it about the Covid vaccine that makes you wary of getting it?’ These are ‘gotcha’ questions for the panel. It was completely biased toward the panel denying the religious exemption.
‘How long have you held this deep religious belief?’ Which is again, completely absurd. Because, on what basis are you going to fire somebody? Who is in charge of saying yea or nay to these things? Their personal opinion on your personal belief is what’s going to get you fired? Who are they to judge what you believe?
I have no idea who my judge and jury is. I’m patiently awaiting to start seeing approvals or denials because, if they approve one they have to approve them all. And if they deny them all, that’s a basis that they were prejudiced against us.