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US Border Patrol in Montana marks 100 years of service

“When you wear a badge and a gun you swear an oath to protect and serve.”
Border Patrol
Border Patrol agents in Montana
Posted at 6:33 AM, May 29, 2024

HAVRE — Montana's Hi-Line is home to eight U.S. Border Patrol stations — two in the Spokane Sector and six in the Havre Sector, stretching a total of 456 miles.

US Border Patrol in Montana marks 100 years of service

“We cover a great deal of area, our Havre station covers 118 linear miles of those 456 miles of border," said Michael Rappold, Patrol Agent in Charge of the Havre Sector.

  • Havre Sector Stations in Montana: St. Mary Station, Havre Station, Plentywood Station, Scobey Station, Malta Station, Sweetgrass Station.
  • Spokane Sector Stations in Montana: Eureka Station, Whitefish Station

An early 1920s push in Congress to create an enforcement agency at the nation's international borders — the Labor Appropriations Act of 1924 created U.S. Customs & Border Protection on May 28, 1924.
"Almost three decades in, when I first came in to where we are now, it's incredible the amount of change that we’ve had." Rappold explained.

The roots of Customs & Border Protection can be traced back to 1789 according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website: "U.S. Customs Service, which traced its original functions to July 31, 1789, and noted its role as the progenitor of numerous federal bureaus and agencies. The Customs Service closed with the dawn of CBP, but its commissioner became the leader of CBP and the majority of its staff and responsibilities came to CBP."

Agency roots began in 1904 as delegated mounted watchmen patrolled international lines.

"There was a lot of pressure on our legislature to enact laws to protect the United States from illicit traffic. By people going up and around, it doesn’t facilitate legal travel, legal merchandise, and tariffs that are to be collected... back in those days.”

Rappold says, an unconventional requirement at the time was to have a nice set of teeth and adequate public speaking skills. As the agency evolved — requirements did too. Today, Border Patrol is a well-oiled machine, setting a standard for other nation's on how to operate at Ports of Entry.

“When you wear a badge and a gun you swear an oath to protect and serve.”

The oath to protect and serve rings true in the agency's "Honor First" motto. Customs & Border Protection's main job is to prevent illicit traffic at ports of entry to the United States. Rappold told MTN, Border Patrol works hand in hand with Canada Border Service Agency.

In light of the politically polarizing conversation of immigration in America — Rappold says morale fluctuates.

"I work with my guys every day, keep them informed and on the up and up." Rappold said. "Being the leader, they need me to be is the key. It's one of the things our agency has taught me is to go forward, be a good leader, be there for your guys, and lead by example.”

On the 100 year anniversary of the creation of Customs & Border Protection, technology remains its biggest asset.

"(It) has enhanced our capabilities from cameras, sound, to night vision..." he explained.

The biggest tool on Montana's international border — the relationship with residents on the Hi-Line and in the communities they serve.
 
"All of our communities up here always are very good to Border Patrol agents and law enforcement in general." Rappold said. "They keep us informed of what's going on. Things that look out of place in their neighborhoods, along their fences, anything out of the normal in the air or on the seas."

Rappold added, immigration has always been a touchy subject. His recommendation for those who have questions is to visit with agents, visit headquarters, and engage in meaningful conversation to fully understand what's happening within the agency.