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Border Patrol Chief In San Diego Discusses Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy

A Border Patrol agent detains three men along Interstate 8 near the U.S.-Mexico border in eastern San Diego County on Sept. 5, 2017.
Brandon Quester / inewsource
A Border Patrol agent detains three men along Interstate 8 near the U.S.-Mexico border in eastern San Diego County on Sept. 5, 2017.
Border Patrol Chief In San Diego Discusses Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy
Border Patrol Chief In San Diego Discusses Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy GUEST: Rodney Scott, chief patrol agent, Border Patrol San Diego sector

>> OUR TOP STORY ON MIDDAY EDITION, THE DETAILS OF HOW THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION'S AGGRESSION POLICY IS ACTUALLY ENFORCED WITH THE SAN DIEGO MEXICO BORDER CAN GET COMPLICATED. FOR ONE THING, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT GOVERNMENT AGENCIES INVOLVED. KPBS REPORTER GENE GUERRERO SAT DOWN WITH THE HEAD OF THE BORDER PATROL TO FOCUS ON THE ROLE HIS AGENCY PLAYS AND THE ZERO TOLERANCE IMMIGRATION POLICY AND FAMILY SEPARATION. HERE'S THE FIRST PART OF JEAN'S INTERVIEW WITH RODNEY SCOTT, CHIEF PATROL AGENT OF THE BORDER PATROL SAN DIEGO SECTOR. >> Reporter: THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. PRESIDENT TRUMP ORDERED A STOP TO FAMILY SEPARATIONS LAST MONTH. BUT ASKED IF THE ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY LED TO THE FAMILY SEPARATIONS BE KEPT IN PLACE. HOW ARE YOU INTERPRETING THAT? I KNOW SOME OFFICIALS NATIONALLY SAID THAT THEY ARE PAUSING THE ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY. IS THAT HAPPEN HERE? >> I WOULDN'T CALL IT A PAUSE. ZERO TOLERANCE IS STILL IN EFFECT. BUT LIKE ANYTHING ELSE, AS WE MOVE TOWARDS THAT, THERE ARE CERTAIN CHALLENGES THAT WE HAVE TO OVERCOME. ONE OF THEM BEING DETENTION SPACE. SO, NOW THAT WE HAVE ANOTHER EXECUTIVE ORDER THAT SAYS YOU WILL KEEP THE FAMILIES TOGETHER, WE ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THAT PIECE OF IT. WE ARE WORKING WITH THE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, WE ARE WORKING WITH ICE AND WE ARE WORKING WITH THE MARSHALS SERVICE TO FIGURE OUT THAT PROCESS, HOW YOU CAN EXECUTE THE FAMILY TOGETHER. HERE IN THE U.S., WE DON'T HAVE FAMILY JAILS. WE DON'T HAVE FAMILY PRESENT IF YOU WILL. SO WE ARE HAVING TO CREATE THAT PROCESS. WHERE YOU CAN KEEP THEM SAFE AND SECURE. WHY WE WORKED THAT OUT, WE ARE NOT ABLE TO MEET THE ZERO TOLERANCE. THE BENCHMARK, IF YOU WILL. BUT WE ARE MOVING TOWARDS IT. >> ESSENTIALLY, YOU AREN'T CRIMINALLY PROSECUTING EVERY PERSON WHO CROSSES THE BORDER LEGALLY FOR NOW. >> CORRECT. BEFORE THE LAST EXECUTIVE ORDER WENT OUT, IT WAS THE SAME. WE ARE WORKING THROUGH THE PROCESS HERE IN SAN DIEGO BUT WE HAVE AT NO TIME BEEN ABLE TO HIT THE ZERO TOLERANCE HERE IN SANDY,. >> DOES BORDER PATROL PLAY A ROLE IN SEPARATING THE FAMILIES WHEN THAT DOES HAVE JOKER? >> YES, WE DO. ANYTIME THERE IS A CRIMINAL PROSECUTION, A LOT OF TIMES THE FAMILY WOULD BE SEPARATED AND IT DEPENDS, IT IS THE SAME NO MATTER WHAT THE CRIME IS. THAT WOULD HAPPEN AT OUR STATIONS. RIGHT WHEN THEY ARE BEING TRANSFERRED TO THE NEXT PHASE. ALL OF THE BORDER PATROL DOES, OUR ROLE IN THE JUDICIAL PROCESS IS THE ARREST. THE PROCESSING, AND THEN THE REFERRAL TO PROSECUTION. THE MINUTE THEY ARE REFERRED FOR PROSECUTION OR THEY'RE GOING TO ANOTHER PHASE OF THE PROCESS, IF THAT IS DEPORTATION, THEY ARE TRANSFERRED VIA THE U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE OR ICE. OR REMOVAL OPERATIONS. AT THAT POINT IN THE PROCESS, A FAMILY MIGHT HAVE TO BE SEPARATED. HHS WOULD COME IN AND TAKE CUSTODY OF THE CHILD AND THAT BECOMES THEIR PRIMARY ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY. >> YOU MENTIONED SOME OF THE FAMILY DETENTION CENTERS, IS BORDER PATROL HERE IN SAN DIEGO AWARE OF ANY SPACES THAT ARE BEING PREPARED HERE IN SAN DIEGO? CAMP PENDLETON? TO TAKE IN THE FAMILIES? >> BORDER PATROL DOESN'T OWN A PIECE OF THAT. I WOULD REFER TO ICE OR THE U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE, DEPENDING ON WHO IS LOOKING AT A SPACES. >> WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE PUBLIC OUTCRY OVER THE FAMILY SEPARATIONS? >> ETHICAL OF IT IS BASED ON MISINFORMATION. I AM AS COMPASSIONATE AS THE NEXT PERSON. I HAVE A FAMILY AND I UNDERSTAND THE HEARTACHE. I THINK A LOT OF THE OUTCRY IS MISSING THE POINT THAT IN THE UNITED STATES ANY CITY RIGHT NOW, SOMEBODY HAS A CHILD THAT IS BEING TAKEN AWAY BECAUSE THEY COMMITTED A CRIME. THEY ARE BEING PROSECUTED. IN THAT PROCESS, THEY GO TO CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES. THIS IS THE SAME AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. THE NUMBERS ARE MINUSCULE COMPARED TO HOW MANY U.S. CITIZENS ARE BEING TAKEN AWAY FROM THEIR PARENTS. >> SO YOU DON'T THINK THAT IT IS DIFFERENT, HAVING THIS LAW AND ORDER STRATEGY TOWARDS PEOPLE WHO ARE IN FACT BREAKING THE LAW BY CROSSING THE BORDER ILLEGALLY. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, THEY ARE SEEKING AND MANY TIMES ASYLUM UNDER U.S. LAW AND INTERNATIONAL LAW? >> ANYBODY THAT CLAIMS WRITABLE FEAR AND WANT AN ASYLUM HEARING GET THAT ASYLUM HEARING. THE RIGHT WAY TO DO THAT IS TO GO TO A PORT OF ENTRY, TO WALK UP AND BASICALLY INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO THE CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION OFFICERS IN THAT SAFE ENVIRONMENT. THEY ARE PREPARED FOR THAT. TO WALK TO AN EMBASSY. BUT EVEN IF YOU CROSS THE BORDER ILLEGALLY, IF YOU ACTUALLY CLAIM ASYLUM, YOU ARE STILL GOING TO GET YOUR ASYLUM HERE AND YOUR DUE PROCESS. WE WILL STOUTE RUSSIA STILL DO OUR PIECE AND REFER YOU FOR PROSECUTION BUT IT DOESN'T TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR ABILITY TO CLAIM ASYLUM. EVEN AND ILLEGAL ENTRY, THAT DOES NOT AFFECT YOUR ASYLUM CLAIM. >> YOU DON'T THINK IT IS THAT QUESTION OF MORALITY THAT PEOPLE ARGUE IT IS IMMORAL TO SEPARATE FAMILIES AS A DETERRENT STRATEGY? >> YOU WANT TO MAKE THAT ARGUMENT, YOU NEED TO MAKE IT FOR ALL CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACROSS THE BOARD. THAT OUR SYSTEMS HAVE BEEN IN PLACE FOR YEARS. THAT YOU ONLY PROSECUTE THE CRIMINAL THAT CHOSE TO VIOLENT CRIME. WE DON'T HAVE FAMILY PRISONS. WE HAVE NEVER TAKEN A WHOLE FAMILY TO JAIL BECAUSE THE MOTHER GOT A DUI. WE HAVE SYSTEMATICALLY TAKEN AWAY CHILDREN FROM PEOPLE BECAUSE WE THOUGHT THAT IT WAS AN ABUSIVE SITUATION. I WOULD CHALLENGE YOU AGAIN, IN THE UNITED STATES, IF ANY AMERICAN PUT THEIR KID AT THE RISK THAT THE CENTRAL AMERICANS ARE PUTTING THEIR RISKS AT. THAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED CHILD ABUSE AND THEY WOULD BE SEPARATED. >> THAT IGNORES THE VIOLENCE THAT MANY OF THESE PEOPLE ARE FLEEING. THAT THEY SAID THAT THEY WANT TO SAVE THEIR CHILDREN'S LIVES. THEY'RE WILLING TO TAKE THE RISKS BECAUSE THE ALTERNATIVE IS WORSE. >> I WOULD NOT SAY THAT IT IS IGNORING THAT. AGAIN, I ASKED THE PEOPLE TO LOOK AT THE WHOLE PICTURE HOLISTICALLY. WE INTERVIEW EVERY SINGLE GROUP THAT WE APPREHEND. AT LENGTH. I WOULD CHALLENGE YOU WHEN I HEAR THE EXACT SAME STORY, ALMOST VERBATIM OVER AND OVER AGAIN, YOU CAN SEE HOW THEIR EYES ROLLING THERE THINKING ABOUT THE STORY THAT THEY WERE COACHED TO SAY. I WOULD QUESTION SOME OF THE ALLEGATIONS. SOME OF THE CLAIMS THAT THEY ARE MAKING, IF YOU WILL. >> IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT IT IS NOT TRUE. BUT I DO BELIEVE THAT OUR ASYLUM SYSTEM IS GETTING INUNDATED WITH FALSE CLAIMS. I THINK THE STATISTICS BACK THAT UP. THAT IS TAKING AWAY FROM THE PEOPLE WHO NEED IT. AGAIN, YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOME CONSEQUENCES AND INTEGRITY IN THE SYSTEM OR THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS GOING TO COLLAPSE. >> THAT WAS KPBS REPORTER GENE GUERRERO. SHE WILL CONTINUE HER CONVERSATION ON THURSDAY WITH CHIEF BORDER PATROL AGENCY -- AGENT RODNEY'S GOT. -- RODNEY SCOTT.

Public outcry over President Trump's immigration-enforcement policies continues.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order to stop family separations but asked the zero-tolerance immigration policy that led to a rise in family separations to remain in place.

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RELATED: San Diego Protest Of Trump’s Immigration Policies Draws 800, Leads To 10 Arrests

How is the zero-tolerance policy playing out in San Diego and what's the Border Patrol's role in separating families?

Rodney Scott, chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector, discusses the zero-tolerance immigration policy with KPBS fronteras reporter Jean Guerrero.

Border Patrol Chief In San Diego Discusses Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy

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