EG: The debate over immigration is so polarized. How do you handle critics who say the Border Patrol is not being aggressive enough, not doing enough to secure the border, and others who say the opposite?
MP: For me, disagreement doesn’t mean disrespect. We are going to have opposing views. It would be boring to have no disagreement at all. I believe that maturity is a big part of leadership. If the Border Patrol union is bringing up issues, or somebody who doesn’t agree with our mission is bringing up issues, it’s easier to dismiss what they are saying instead of sitting down and listening to what they are saying and finding areas of common ground.
One of our biggest advocates for saving lives in Arizona was Juanita Molina, who works for a nongovernmental organization [Humane Borders]. It started with hostile meetings, but when we sat down to talk about the issues, we realized we had an opportunity to save lives when we brought our different efforts together. I’m never going to make Juanita Molina an advocate for our mission of border security, and she is never going to make me tear down that wall. We used to joke about that. But within those differences, there was a huge opportunity to save lives. She has been a big advocate for the missing migrant initiative and life-saving efforts where we can come together even when we have differences. Actually, she said she would come out and visit us here.
In 2015 there were protests in Arizona over a particular checkpoint. So I met with them right there at the protest. They don’t expect to have somebody meet with them when they have opposing views. We were discussing the checkpoint operations and how we carry out the mission. And I think the media at that time asked me, “What do you think of this protest?” and I said “Hey, this is America, and the freedom of speech is a great thing we have. As long as they don’t impede operations, that is their right to do what they are doing.”