This article originally appeared in the Friday July 12, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
Mission firefighters looking to receive their Emergency Medical Technician certification will soon train with border patrol agents.
During Monday’s city council meeting, the city signed a memorandum of understanding with the Rio Grande Valley sector of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for Mission firefighters and Border Patrol agents receive the training needed to become EMT certified.
“Our fire department is getting our personnel EMT certified and this is a way to have some Border Patrol agents also certified,” Mission fire Chief Gilbert Sanchez said. “We will house some of their students along with four of ours at the CEED Building. It’s the first agreement of its kind with the department. Both our entities need these kinds of certifications and Border Patrol came to us to see if we could work something out. They knew that one of the goals of a city is to get our firefighters certified as EMTs.”
Four Mission firefighters and a yet undefined number of CBP agents will receive EMT training at a Monday through Friday class that will run from 8 am through 5 pm for two months. Meanwhile 11 mission firefighters will receive training in night classes held every Tuesdays and Thursdays for four months.
“The general point is to serve the public with better knowledge to assist when needed,” Sanchez said, adding that the city has a “great” relationship with CBP as they routinely assist them with any local incidents. “With Border Patrol, they’re on the frontlines with the border, at times they have to assist the people crossing over with the medical assistance, this is a way for them to gain more to better assist.”
Mission Mayor Armando O’cana said after the meeting that this agreement will lead to better things for Mission firefighters.
“This opens the door to send our first responders to train at their facilities,” O’cana said.
After the meeting, O’cana briefly mentioned the controversies surrounding CBP in the last few weeks. Earlier this month it was reported in national outlets that multiple secret Facebook groups filled with CBP agents contained sexist posts and racist memes, including jokes about migrant deaths and doctored pictures of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
There has also been a national outcry regarding the holding facilities CBP is housing migrants in, with many of them reportedly overcrowded and dangerous conditions were described as “a ticking time bomb”, according to an inspector general’s report released last week.
Despite the controversies, O’cana said they are moving forward with the agreement and said that if they see CBP agents doing “negative things,” they will report it to the proper authorities.
“But right now, our philosophy is we are on the border and homeland security supersedes our emotions and we have to protect America, and that means protecting it together as far as we’re concerned,” O’cana said. “The council approved a policy last year to upgrade our firefighters to EMTs. This is a means to get there. It’s available and cost effective to the city. We have to divorce ourselves from the emotions.”