Sunday, March 10, 2024

My Q&A With Former Border Patrol Special Agent Vincent Vargas

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with former Border Patrol Special Agent and the author of Borderline: Defending the Home Front, Vincent Vargas.

You can read the interview via the below pages or the below text:

Vincent “Rocco” Vargas was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California. After several years of college baseball, Vincent Vargas enlisted in the US Army and went on to serve three combat deployments with the 2nd Battalion of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. After 4 years of active-duty service, he joined the U.S. Army Reserves and serves as a drill instructor.

In 2009 he became a Federal Agent with the Border Patrol and was a Medic with the Border Patrol’s Special Operations Group.

Vincent is currently an entrepreneur, actor, writer, author and producer. Previous film credits include Lucy Shimmers and the Prince of Peace (2020-Actor and Co-Executive Producer), Not a War Story (2017-Self and Executive Producer), and Dads in Parks (2016-Self and Writer).

Most recently, Vincent was a writer on season 5 and played ‘Gilly’ on the #1 cable television series “Mayans MC” for FX.

He is also a motivational speaker and focuses on veteran advocacy, leadership, military transition and motivating youth.

He is married with eight children and resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Vincent Vargas is also the author of “Borderline: Defending The Home Front.” 

He was interviewed by Paul Davis. 

IACSP: I read your book, and I enjoyed it. How would you describe “Borderline” And why did you write the book? 

Vargas: “Borderline” is a hard look at the Border Patrol agent career field through the eyes of someone who lived it. The book was written to educate the average person of what the job entailed daily. Most don’t really know what the job does besides what they see in snippets of information on the Internet or read in the media, which are not always factual. So I thought I would be the best advocate for the Border Patrol and tell the story from my eyes. 

As my career is now over, I can highlight and educate people on what the job actually is. I wrote it because I saw what is happening in the media. I saw the so-called whipping. That incident was very aggravating to me to see all the way up the chain of command was really bashing the Border Patrol for doing their job, their almost impossible, complex job.        

IACSP: I see your point, but some elements of the media, such as Fox News and the Washington Times, did defend the agents, explaining that the agents were using the horse’s reins to control the large animal, and not using whips on the illegal aliens. 

Why did you become a Border Patrol Agent after serving as a Ranger in the U.S. Army, and what years did you serve? 

Vargas:  I served in the Border Patrol from 2009 to 2015. I joined because I wanted to serve my country on our own soil. I was formerly active-duty military with Special Operations, and I was doing “Kill or Capture” missions against terrorist organizations overseas. I saw there was a bigger mission happening with homeland security in our own country.    

IACSP: You fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. How did your military combat experience differ from your experiences as an agent on the Southern Border?   

Vargas: The difference between military and law enforcement are the rules of engagement. In the military we have an almost one-track mind. We get intel on the target, and we do what we have to do to take them out. In the Border Patrol it is very complex.

I do carry a gun on my hip, but at the same time I’m also on a humanitarian mission. I’m also there as a medic and a crisis response person, so we wear many hats in the Border Patrol. It differs extremely from the military in that you have to be a little more intelligent in how you approach the clear field and how you approach every mission. There are so many different facets, so I believe it is a little more challenging with the duality of the mission of immigration and homeland security, bur also in the complexity of what is happening on the border, from tracking drug smuggling to your basic humanitarian mission.            

IACSP: On the border you have illegal immigrants crossing, and you have cartel drug smugglers and human traffickers, and even terrorists. How does a Border Patrol agent deal with those kinds of issues on a daily basis, both physically and emotionally?  

Vargas: The emotional side of it is starting to hit a little more now, because the outside sources like to portray the Border Patrol negativity. A career field that I believe is doing a noteworthy job is being demonized.

IACSP: Are you in contact with current Border Patrol agents? And if so, what do they say about how the job has changed since you left?

Vargas: I am. They feel alone. They feel like they don’t have a voice. That’s the reason I wrote this book, hoping I’d be a voice for them. I don’t think the average person in America can differentiate between the Border Patrol and Customs and ICE. It is frustrating for them to be demonized. The majority of Americans support the military, right?   

IACSP: Not in my day.

Vargas: I hear you. Right now, I think the job of the Border Patrol is just as important as the military.  

IACSP: What do you think of the current Homeland Security policies?

Vargas: I understand the humanitarian push for people seeking asylum, but it almost seems everyone is seeking asylum which almost means it is a loophole in our system. I think a lot of people in the nation have become frustrated with it.      

IACSP: Do you think the border crisis will be an issue in the upcoming presidential election? Do you think it will be one of the top five issues?

Vargas: Absolutely. I think it will be one of the top two.

IACSP: The idea that thousands of migrants are allowed into the country while waiting years for an asylum hearing, which chances are they won’t show up for, is ludicrous to me.   

Vargas: It’s called an NTA. Notice To Appear. We’ve seen some dated back close to ten years.  

IACSP: There is no incentive for these people to show up for the hearing.

Vargas: Yeah, it’s kind of a loophole in the system that people are taking advantage of. It’s a problem.

IACSP: In your book, you show great empathy for those crossing the border, which I admire. I’m a military hawk and a law-and-order guy, but other than the drug smugglers, the human traffickers and other criminals and terrorists, the average people trying to enter the country are trying for a better life for themselves and their family. They are wrong to enter illegally, but one can understand why they are trying to. How would you describe the typical illegal immigrant?

Vargas: They are a good majority who are coming here and really wanting to work. It is the only means they know of to earn really good money for some kind of labor work that the average American does not want to do. Yeah, I’m kind of empathic. We are a country of immigrants, but in saying that, there is a significant uptick in terrorist-potential threats and crime issues. We have to have a solid immigration policy and on top of that we also must have a good homeland security policy that protects us.         

IACSP: We also don’t have the money for the social services for all these illegal immigrants.

Vargas: That’s correct. We are a country of dignity. There are some people who think we should be closed off to everyone, but that is not realistic. There is a middle ground.

IACSP: How does training for a Border Patrol special agent differ from say an FBI special agent?  

Vargas: We are the direct-action force on the border. So we focus a lot on learning the border culture. We are field agents more than anything. We track people from the dirt, we walk miles and miles in the brush and the desert, so we are trained to be good outdoor agents. Boots on the ground, doing the job.

IACSP: I guess being a former Army Ranger helps.

Vargas:  Absolutely. I changed uniforms but I was doing a similar mission.

IACSP: How would you describe the Border Patrol’s special operations groups, BORSTAR, the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Unit, and BORTAC, the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC)? I understand from your book, you were BORSTAR, but you were also assigned to BORTAC.

Vargas: Hands down, the best kept secret Homeland Security has is the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, BORTAC. It is one of the best tactical units in our arsenal. And our BORSTAR team is one of the best you could ever come by. You don’t find many medics who are highly trained in many different facets of rescue. They are also trained in using their rifles as well.

IACSP: What was the highlight of your career?

Vargas: The highlight of my career was rescuing and safeguarding lives and taking bad people off the streets. The hardest times are the many dead bodies we came across on the border that have passed due to circumstances because they were manipulated in crossing the border illegally by trafficking organizations. This will forever be a toll on my soul.     

IACSP: You resigned from the Border Patrol to become an actor, writer and producer. Why the career change?

Vargas: I want to leave a footprint from my life experiences that hopefully show a different point of view from a different lens. So being able to be an artist and using my words in a way that I believe is for good and not evil, is really the mission. It also keeps me home a little more often with the kids. I felt like I had to hang up the cleats, if you will, being “runnin’ and gunnin’” all these years, and try to be a better father for my kids. 

IACSP: Thank you for your service and thank you for talking to us.


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