Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 4, Episode 20 - Border Patrol - full transcript

Oliver warns that Donald Trump's desire to have a surge in border patrol agent numbers was also tried by G.W. Bush's White House with disastrous results in the quality of agents added to the force.

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Welcome, welcome, welcome
to Last Week Tonight.

I am John Oliver.
Thank you so much for joining us.

And much like the disintegration
of western civilization,

we begin tonight,
with Donald Trump.

The Donald Trump Jr.
of American presidents.

And now, if around 5pm on Friday,

you suddenly started feeling
just a little bit calmer,

it may be because this happened.

Tonight, President Donald Trump is
getting away from the Washington heat.

The president arrived in New Jersey
just a little while ago

to begin a 17-day vacation.

Yes, Trump is taking
a 17-day vacation from work,

which means America may be getting
a 17-day vacation from Trump.

Which is exciting, right ?

Although, hold on,
while he's there,

he will still have access
to the nuclear codes,

and, even worse, Wi-Fi,
so don't relax. Never relax.

Your life is still a torture chamber
of fear and panic.

But that was on Friday,
and Trump was leaving

at the end of what the White House
had dubbed "American Dream Week."

Which Trump chose to mark by
demeaning as many American institutions

as he possibly could,
beginning with this.

After that political speech
to the Boy Scouts last week,

the president told
The Wall Street Journal

the head of the Boy Scouts
personally called him

to say it was the greatest speech
that was ever made to them

and they were very thankful.

But actually
the speech angered so many,

the Boy Scouts were forced
to issue an apology.

And yesterday
they said there was no phone call.

Okay, so let me get this straight:

Trump showed up,
said a bunch of crazy shit,

then lied to make himself
look good.

I'm honestly not sure
why the Boy Scouts are so upset.

If you book Trump, you get Trump.

You can't book Gallagher

and then complain when you go home
covered in melon juice.

If you're not familiar with his acts
by now, it's kind of on you.

But Trump was just getting started.

Even as that controversy
was still going, a new one emerged.

President Trump explained
to members of one of his golf clubs

that he goes to his own properties
so frequently these days

because, quote,
"that White House is a real dump."

Now, yes, it seems a little odd

to call an objectively
grand residence "a dump",

until you remember
that Trump's taste in interior design

is a cross between C-3PO's colon

and a museum where no one
has ever learned anything.

Trump issued a statement
denying that he had said that,

tweeting, "I love the White House,
one of the most beautiful buildings"

"(homes) I have ever seen."

And that is two qualifiers !
In one sentence !

It's the equivalent of saying,

"I love my wife.
She is one of the most beautiful women"

"(older than 30)
I have ever seen."

But the journalist who wrote that
story stood by it,

stating that "Trump said this
in front of eight or nine people".

Which is actually a pretty brilliant
way to get Trump to confirm it:

estimate the size of his crowd
and just wait for him to correct you.

"I didn't call the White House a dump
in front of eight or nine people,"

"I said it in front of hundreds
of thousands of people,"

"and all of them were 10's,
and all of them loved it,"

"and the next day everyone called me
and told me"

"that no one had ever done a better job
of calling the White House a dump."

"Nobody had done it !
I'm sad inside."

And look, Trump still wasn't done,
because on Thursday,

it emerged, that in a conversation
with Mexico's president,

he had shit talked
an entire American state.

While talking about stopping the flow
of drugs into the United States

the president also said this,
and I'm quoting him,

"I won New Hampshire because
New Hampshire is a drug-infested den."

Okay, so first, obviously, he is wrong
about winning New Hampshire.

He lost it in the general.

But second, I am not going to sit here
and defend the state of New Hampshire.

I haven't lost some terrible dare.

But that is not the way,

even if you want to do it,
to shit on New Hampshire.

If you want to do that, just point out

it's nothing more than 9,000 square
miles of granite and Lyme disease,

and it is the only state so boring,

it can genuinely make you say,
"oh thank God, we're in Maine now."

I don't want to give you
the impression

that it was only Trump
in the White House

attacking cornerstones
of America this week.

Because it was also Stephen Miller,

policy adviser
and vitamin-D deficient Minion.

Yes, you might well think,
"that's unfair."

"Anyone can find a photo of someone
looking a bit like a Minion."

But with Miller, it is genuinely hard

to find a photo of him not looking
like a Minion. I'll show you.

Frowny Minion, smoochy Minion,
smiley Minion !

Look ! They're both happy
because they're planning something !

Now, in any case,
Miller spoke to the press this week

about the White House's support
for a draconian immigration bill,

which would slash legal immigration
levels in half over a decade,

and make citizenship
contingent on factors such as

English ability,
education levels, and job skills.

Which prompted this incredible
exchange with CNN's Jim Acosta.

The Statue of Liberty says,
'give me your tired, your poor,'

'your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free.'

It doesn't say anything
about speaking English

or being able to be
a computer programmer.

The poem that you're referring to,
that was added later,

it's not actually a part
of the original Statue of Liberty.

Wait, though. Just because
it wasn't part of the original,

does not mean
it is worthless.

Some of the best things ever made
were changed partway through.

Did you know for instance
there was a time

where Fast and Furious movies
didn't have The Rock in them ?

It's true ! And they sucked ! That's
why they added The Fucking Rock !

That clearly wasn't the greatest piece
of communication from Stephen Miller,

so the White House is now
considering him

for the communications
director job,

taking over
from the dearly departed "Mooch".

And that would be a lot
of responsibility for Stephen Miller,

a man who is, and this may be the
most shocking thing you learn tonight,

31 years old.

He is 31 human years old.

He is the same age as the Olsen twin.

That's right. I said twin.
There's only one of them in that photo,

she's tricking your eyes
by moving very quickly.

How is she doing that
in a still photograph ?

I don't know that yet, but I'm close.
I'm really close.

The point is, Miller is so young
that there are

videos on the internet
of what he was like in high school

and first of all, obviously:

But second: the video was of him
campaigning for student government,

and it gives you a sense
of what we may all be in for

if he does become
the new Mooch.

Am I the only one who is sick and tired
of being told to pick up my trash

when we have plenty of janitors
who are paid to do it for us ?


He is truly one of the most revolting
humans (Minions) I have ever seen.

In a way there is no more fitting
spokesman for the Trump administration

than an entitled, elitist asshole

who refuses to take responsibility
for the messes he makes,

and who can somehow manage
to pick a fight with a fucking statue.

And now, this.

And now, you wish you loved anything

as much as Seattle gardening expert
Ciscoe Morris loves everything.

It's time to clean out the garden.
There's room for new plants out there !

This is the best tomato on Earth.

Oh, I love that plant.

I love this nursery.
Great plants.

This is a really cool plant.

This is the ugliest plant in the world,
but I love it.

I love chimes.

I've used one of these for a banister
on my porch.

Oh, Meeghan, I'm so excited.
Look, the rhubarb is starting to bud !

It's so cute.
Rhubarb tart !

I just saw rhubarb budding up
in my garden,

and I love the living dweedle
out of that stuff.

I'm gonna harvest the living beetle
hopper outta you !

So pretty.
Does smell good.

So flavorful !

I love doing this !
Can I do this for the next half hour ?

Look at that one !


Moving on. Our main story tonight
concerns the border,

the boundary that is incredibly tough
to smuggle a monkey across, I am told.

President Trump has famously made

securing the border
a key priority for his administration,

most notably through his border wall,

something which,
as we've pointed out before,

he himself inadvertently found
a flaw in on the campaign trail.

There's no ladder going over that.

If they ever get up there,
they're in trouble,

because there's no way
to get down. Maybe a rope.

Yeah, yeah, maybe a rope.

I know that sounds stupid,
but to be fair,

you haven't heard phase six
of Trump's border security plan:

go get me all the ropes.

And while that wall idea has
received a lot of coverage,

it is by no means
Trump's only border plan.

One of his more benign-sounding, but
potentially no less dangerous ideas,

concerns the Border Patrol.

And first, let's be clear about
who they are.

They are part
of Customs and Border Protection.

They are not ICE, who you may know
from immigration raids.

They're also not Customs officers,

who you'll see at airports
and border crossings.

Nor are they the "Borders Patrol,"
a group of vigilantes

who defend abandoned
Borders Bookstores from raccoons.

No, the Border Patrol are the people
in green uniforms

who literally patrol
the boundaries of our country.

There are around 20,000 of them,

but Trump, in an executive order,
has called for them to add 5,000 more,

to tackle the many problems
that he sees on our southern border.

Let's stop the drugs and the crime
from pouring into our country.

You can certainly have terrorists,
you can have Islamic terrorists,

you can have anything
coming across the border.

We're gonna have a strong border
that people are going to respect

and the drugs are not gonna be
flowing across like gravy.

Now, that right there is what happens
when Donald Trump

starts a sentence feeling xenophobic
and ends it feeling hungry.

"We need to stop Mexicans coming in"

"like hot fudge sundaes
coming into my tummy."

"Three scoops, whipped cream,
no cherry 'cause I don't do fruit."

But for the record:

Border Patrol agents do a lot more
than just fight drugs, crime and gravy.

In recent years,
the number of Mexicans

apprehended crossing
the border has dramatically dropped,

and has now been surpassed

by the sharp rise in migrants
fleeing violence in Central America,

for whom there is a legal process
to seek asylum here,

meaning that agency's days can
frequently include moments like this.

The Bocche family
take their first tentative steps

into the United States of America.

Within seconds
the Border Patrol are on them.

There's no chase, no tension,
they expected to be caught.

As we film, another two figures emerge,
a mother and her daughter.

They're given blankets
to protect them from the cold.

And that's not what people expect
when they think of the border.

In the Venn diagram
of "hardened drug dealers"

and "people who need blankets,"

that middle section
is pretty much just Linus.

Oh, I'm sorry,
he is not a drug dealer ?

The messy hair, the stripy shirt,
the thumb sucking,

he sells ecstasy at raves, and he's
high on his own supply all the time !

There is no Great Pumpkin !
He's a junky, someone intervene !

But the truth is
it is moments like that there

that show how difficult the job
of a Border Patrol agent can be,

because in that moment,
they are delivering aid,

but later that same day, they may be
chasing down drug traffickers.

So it's a mixture between humanitarian
work and law enforcement,

and not everyone can do it.

And that is what makes Trump's plan

to expand the Border Patrol
by 25 percent so concerning.

Because if you hire agents
quickly and badly,

it can actually leave us
much less safe,

and have devastating

And the reason we know this is because
we have been down this road before.

So tonight, I would like
to talk to you

about the last Border Patrol
hiring surge,

because it wasn't that long ago.

After the so-called bungling
of intelligence leading up to 9/11,

President George W. Bush is determined
to shore things up at the borders.

As part of that mandate,

the Border Patrol expanded
from 10,000 agents to 20,000.

It's true the late 2000s saw
a surge in Border Patrol agents

that was matched only by the surge
in the number

of reality shows
about people making cakes.

There were so many of those, you don't
even know which one of them I made up.

It was by the way "Cake Cucks"

which I guarantee you will be
in production sometime next week.

Now, to meet the surge's ambitious
targets, recruitment was aggressive.

And the government
advertised everywhere,

even at one point,
doing this.

The Border Patrol spent $8.4 million
sponsoring this car,

getting it detailed
and staffing recruiting booths.

That is honestly true !
They sponsored a NASCAR team,

putting the Border Patrol in such fine
company as other NASCAR sponsors

Depends Underwear
and Boudreaux's Butt Paste.

A product for, I assume, people
who want their butt pasted closed.

And look, that wasn't all. They also
ran slickly produced TV ads like this.

As a mobile law enforcement arm
of the Department of Homeland Security,

it is the job of the Border Patrol

to prevent terrorists
and terrorist weapons

and all those who seek to do us harm
from entering the United States.

The Border Patrol.
We protect America.

Are you up to the challenge ?

You have to admit, they make that job
look very exciting.

Although, in fairness,

anything said in that tone of voice
would be exciting.

"Here is my kitten.
I named him Bootsie."

"Don't wee on the rug, Bootsie !"

"I'm not sure he likes me
as much as I like him !"

But the truth of their job is

that most agents work alone
patrolling vast swaths of desert.

And while some days feature
bursts of action,

others can involve
absolutely nothing,

which can be challenging
in and of itself.

One of the larger problems is boredom.

It doesn't mean
that it's never dangerous.

There are bandits out there;
there are drug organizations out there.

What they're not really getting
is preparation

for the boring non-risky reality
of almost all of their career.

Exactly. Boredom is a significant part
of life as a Border Patrol agent.

And they should probably train for it.

For every hour they spend
in target practice,

they should probably spend ten hours
watching "Mozart In The Jungle".

Are you funny ?

Am I supposed to care about you ?

Who's that woman with the oboe ?

I'm confused, but I'm also bored.

But the big problem was that,
as they doubled in size,

meeting and maintaining
their hiring quotas meant

that their screening process
wasn't always very strong.

It was only late in the surge

that the CBP started giving applicants
polygraph tests,

something that most other federal
law-enforcement agencies do.

And listen to James Tomsheck,

who headed internal affairs for CBP
through most of the surge,

their findings indicated they probably
should have done that sooner.

The shocking discovery we found
was that more than half of the persons

who had cleared background

failed the polygraph examination.

The vast majority of them
providing detailed descriptions

of the criminal activity
they had been involved in.

Now just think about that.
Over half of CBP's applicants,

who had cleared the highest level
of background check,

were found unsuitable
for service.

And some of what they confessed to
was absolutely incredible.

One applicant admitted
to smoking marijuana

20,000 times in a 10-year-period,
kudos to that individual,

while another stated he had
"no independent recollection"

"of the events that resulted
in a blood-doused kitchen,"

"and was uncertain
if he had committed any crime"

"during his three-hour
black out."

Which I'm going to go ahead and say,
yes, you did commit a crime !

Or at the very least, you "really"
fucked up a soufflé.

I mean you fucked that thing up bad.

And the problems didn't stop
once the new agents were hired,

because the training
was also significantly cut back.

And that caused real issues,
as one trainer revealed while,

for some reason, being disguised
as an asthmatic scarecrow.

We are disguising the face and voice

of this veteran agent
and training instructor

because of fears of retaliation.

We went from a 20-week course
to a 12-week course.

So the standards were lowered.

Well, they say the standards
weren't lowered but they were.

What is happening there ?

He sounds like Jesse Ventura

after swallowing one of those novelty
cow voice noisemakers.

I know that it is really hard
to pay attention

to what Robot Neil Young
is saying there,

but it is genuinely worth listening to
where they cut corners.

The source told us

Spanish language classes and physical
training were cut back.

The person was so out of shape
I actually had to treat the trainee

and the bad guy got away.

Pretty much everybody gets through
the academy.

They cut back on Spanish
and physical training,

so the new standards affected

agent's abilities to talk
to the people they caught

and their ability to catch the people
they wanted to talk to,

which seem like
pretty essential facets of their job.

It's like if the training program
at Sea World left out

putting on a wet suit

and systematically driving carnivores
whales insane.

That's the whole job there.

Take them away.
You're left with nothing else.

And consequently as the ranks grew,

corruption and excessive force

Misconduct became such a problem
that, at one point,

the Border Patrol felt it needed
to issue a memo about the fact

their agents were averaging
two alcohol-related arrests per week.

And some agents' off-duty run-ins with
the law were even more spectacular.

Tonight, two border agents
are on leave,

after a woman says they put on
a lewd show during Cirque Du Soleil,

performing a sex act
right in front of children.

The accusations don't stop there.

The couple is suspected of being drunk
and violent.

Now, I should tell you:

one agent was found guilty of
assaulting the woman who complained,

but both denied that anything sexual
was happening,

and they were found
not guilty of the sex act.

Presumably because they were
at Cirque Du Soleil,

where everything
looks like a sex act.

I'll show you: this is a sex act,
this is a sex act,

this is a wildly difficult sex act,
that is a bird-person sex act,

and I have absolutely
no idea what's happening there,

but I think it's the thing that
Steve Bannon is supposed to be good at.

And things got more serious than that.

Since 2005, 77 agents were arrested
or indicted for corruption.

And if you think about it,

Border Patrol agents are particularly
attractive to drug traffickers.

Remember: they often work on their own,
patrolling the border.

Which, as one journalist points out,
is a pretty potent recipe for trouble.

One Border Patrol agent can undo

an incredible amount of good that
all the other Border Patrol agents do.

One Border Patrol agent can wave in
tons of drugs.

- You mean that literally.
- Absolutely literally.

Yeah, this is one of the only cases
where someone saying "a ton of drugs"

actually means
"a literal ton of drugs."

No, Kevin.
You did not do a "ton" of drugs.

You took a Benadryl,
you made out with a goldfish,

and you passed out
with your head in the dishwasher.

Pull your life together.

Let me give you a taste of the kind
of spectacular corruption involved.

Take agent Joel Luna, who, it turned
out, had a brother in the Gulf Cartel,

and who was convicted
of engaging in organized crime,

with some pretty striking evidence
emerging during a house search.

We end up finding a safe, a black safe.

We found $89,000 in cash.

Joel Luna's commemorative
Border Patrol badge,

kilo and a half of cocaine,

A gun that's tied directly
to the Gulf Cartel.

It says Gulf Cartel on it.
It's hard to explain that away.

It's hard to explain why
your Border Patrol badge is in a safe

with cocaine, money,
and a cartel pistol.

Yeah. That is really hard to explain.
I mean the best I can do is,

"my badge had a drug problem that
it couldn't bear to tell me about,"

"so finally it decided to shoot itself
with a gun that we found on a case,"

"planning to die
surrounded by its money"

"because its views on death resembled
those of ancient Egyptians."

But even then, we are talking
about a sentient police badge

with an interest in Egyptology,

so you're already banking on a pretty
large suspension of disbelief there.

Oh, and you should know:

Luna was hired during
the last recruitment surge.

And CBP will tell you
what they told us,

that while some agents did disgrace
the badge with corruption,

the vast majority did not.

Although it is worth knowing
that Tomsheck,

the internal affairs guy, believes the
problem is much bigger than they imply.

Mr. Luna is not one bad apple.
He is part of a rate of corruption

that exceeded that of any other U.S.
federal law enforcement agency.

Ok, so it's less "one bad apple"

than "oh my god,
that is a lot of bad apples."

Which should really be the marketing
theme for "red delicious apples."

"Red delicious apples: well, at least
we got the 'red' part right !"

And it gets even worse.

Because remember:
these agents have guns.

And some have made
very bad decisions.

And you may have seen coverage
of some of the tragic incidents.

In a string of shootings
by the Border Patrol

that have stirred up emotions
at the border,

there's one case in particular that
has become a rallying cry for justice,

a shooting of a 16-year-old boy
named Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

They say their agents were threatened

by somebody throwing rocks
on this side of the fence,

but standing here,
the first thing you ask yourself is

could a 16 year old boy really threaten

somebody standing on top
of what's at least a 20 foot cliff

and on the other side of that fence ?

I mean, yeah,
that does seem pretty unlikely.

And to explain why, tune in next week,
when our main story will be

"Gravity: arch nemesis
to the concept of up."

Now, so you know:
that case is still in the courts

and agents can sometimes
feel threatened by rock throwers.

But, it is worth pointing out that
a report, which looked at 25 cases

where Border Patrol agents shot people
who'd thrown rocks concluded that

"too many cases do not appear to meet
the test of objective reasonableness"

"with regard
to the use of deadly force".

Which I believe is kind of
law-enforcement-legalese for

"holy shit, you shot some people
you should not have fucking shot at."

"Maybe don't do that as much !"

And there is one more thing
about the agent in that fence-shooting

that will not surprise you.

He was one of those persons hired
by the Border Patrol during the surge.

Of course he was.

And yet, despite
all of these warning signs,

we are about to embark upon another
ambitious Border Patrol hiring surge.

And CBP will tell you
not to worry about that,

that, in recent years, they've improved
hiring and made reforms.

For instance,
they've increased transparency,

and given agents more non-lethal
weapons, like pepper spray guns,

as well as rewriting their use-of-force
rulebook to, and I quote,

"prohibit the shooting of suspects
fleeing the scene"

"who do not pose a threat to themselves
or others."

And look that is great !

Although it does seem to be one
of those rules

that you shouldn't have
had to write down.

If you went to a zoo
and there were a giant sign that said,

"please don't finger the armadillos,"

you would wonder what the fuck had
happened before that sign went up.

But the problem is many other reforms
have not been made,

and it is hard to believe
that they will be

now that president
gravy-drugs is in charge.

In fact, there has already been talk
that hiring standards might drop again,

with suggestions
like a shorter polygraph,

or removing parts
of the entrance exam.

And most frustratingly of all,

there may be no reason for us
to take this risk

because a report from the inspector
general for Homeland Security

questions whether we even need
5,000 more Border Patrol agents.

And yet, Trump seems determined
to do this anyway. Who knows why ?

There's a fairly good chance
he only said 5,000

because someone told him
5 bazillion is not a real number.

And look: whatever your feelings

about the laws the Border Patrol
have been given to enforce,

and I have plenty of feelings on that,

you do want the best possible people
enforcing them.

Because if you don't, as we have seen,
bad things happen.

This is a story about the danger
of not learning from your mistakes.

And for the sake of everybody,
people on both sides of the border,

and the good Border Patrol agents
just trying to do a difficult job well,

if we are going to hire
all these new people,

the very least we can do is
be more careful this time around.

And one tiny step would be
to have recruitment ads

that show potential agents
what the job is "really" like.

The Border Patrol !

We protect America
and we're hiring again,

but this time,
we're going to do it right.

So if you're looking for an exciting,
heart pounding adventure,

maybe go skydiving, or try Parkour,
or do whatever the fuck this is.

But the Border Patrol
may not be for you

because a lot of the time,
the job looks less like this,

and more like this.

That's right. Just you, the desert,
and nothing for miles around.

This could be your lunch break.

This is a job that can combine hours
of boredom

with sudden bursts of action.

Oh shit !
I got people moving; I need back up.

And about that action:

it definitely can involve people
entering illegally or drug smugglers,

but a surprising
amount of the time,

it involves desperate migrants for whom
you're the first point of contact

in a system ill-equipped
to cater to their needs.

Um... these guys are.


- Gracias.
- I don't...


This job is not for everyone

and that's why this time we're not
advertising with NASCAR.

Instead, we're recruiting with this
sweet-ass Honda Odyssey:

a practical car
for reasonable, methodical people.

Please make sure you read
the entirety of its nuanced text

before making any decisions,
and some of it's in Spanish

because it would be really useful
if you can speak that.

But just to be clear, if you want
to fuck at Cirque du Soleil,

this is not the job for you,
and we will find out.

Last question.

Have you ever, and I mean ever,
considered having sexual relations

at a performance of exotically dressed
Canadian acrobats ?


We're done here.

The point is,
if you're kind, physically fit,

impervious to bribery or boredom,
and you want to serve your country

by enforcing a controversial
and ever-changing set of policies

in the most humane way possible,
then give us a call.

The Border Patrol ! We're hiring !
Wish us luck with that !

Circus fuckers need not apply.

Thank you so much for watching !
We'll see you next week, good night !