Former Border Patrol Agent Confronts His Past With Music
by Gus Jarvis
Dec 02, 2010 | 5556 views | 0 0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Randolph
John Randolph
slideshow
Proceeds From CD Sales to Benefit Farmworker Organization RIDGWAY – Former U.S. Border Patrol agent and now retired Ridgway resident John Randolph has seen it all. He’s seen fellow agents killed in the line of duty. He’s seen Mexicans die seeking a better life for their families, for work. He’s seen families torn apart and violent criminals set free.

After 26 years of working with immigration, Randolph retired in 2005. With illegal immigration and horrid drug cartel violence still plaguing the borderlands today, Randolph continues to deal with the emotional sadness and stress caused by his former job. He recently turned to music as a form of therapy, and has recorded a CD of his music, including an original song titled “Two Pesos Pobres,” to promote awareness of immigrant issues.

On Dec. 8, Randolph will perform “Two Pesos Pobres” at the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs conference in New Orleans. The same nonprofit organization will benefit from sales of Randolph’s CD.

Written in both Spanish and English, “Two Pesos Pobres” describes Randolph’s feelings about his years working as a border patrol agent. Greatly affected by the people he saw getting hurt and killed, Randolph faced constant grief over the fact that 98 percent of the Mexicans he arrested were individuals trying to make a better life in the U.S. so they could feed their families at home. Not only was it dehumanizing to these people to be chased around in the dark, it was dehumanizing for Randolph to do it.

“What I never understood and still do not understand – why do we arrest the people who pick our fruits and vegetables for us?” Randolph told The Watch. “Why do they have to flee their country? Why do we want and need these workers on one hand but treat them as a sub-class of human beings on the other?”

For many who try to cross the border, Mexicans, as stated in the introduction of “Two Pesos Pobres,” face a tough and often dangerous choice in seeking a better life.

Campesinos Mexicanos will you survive?

Pobreza, corupcion, y narco-violencia

It’s harder and harder, to cross the line

Will you get through, or will you die trying?

Y Los Americanos, ellos no comprenden…


Interested in combining his love for the Spanish language with his career, Randolph joined the U.S. Border Patrol in 1979 after attending a four-month academy and passing post academy classes, oral boards and field officer reviews. He spent his first years patrolling the backcountry of San Diego and, at first, it was a perfect job.

“I actually remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe they are paying me to do this job.’ I worked in the very peaceful and scenic areas of eastern San Diego,” Randolph said.

However, things quickly changed when his patrol was moved to northern San Diego County where he worked city patrol in Escondido, Oceanside, and all cities south to the I-8 freeway. The reality there was constant arrests, often with stressful car and foot pursuits. During one traffic stop, Randolph was exiting the passenger seat of his squad car when the stopped vehicle took off. Instead of waiting for Randolph to get back in the car, his partner accelerated, forcing Randolph to let go of the moving squad car and roll onto the paved street.

“I remember shouting for joy because I knew I just missed hitting my head and getting killed,” he said. “Needless to say, I never rode with that agent again.”

Randolph said his border patrol job got worse as he watched the freeway for cars packed with people being smuggled north. One dark night he witnessed a load car driver jump over the freeway’s divide to escape arrest. There was a large gap between the overpass lanes and the Mexican man, only 20-years-old, fell to his death.

“I had to guard the body until the local police and FBI investigated the case,” he said. “It is a wonder that one of my co-workers did not follow this man over the divide.”

Hopelessly poor in a desperate land

Houses of pallets, they do what they can

Campesinos Mexicanos – they farm to survive

Necesitan trabajo, without it they’ll die

Sin papeles legales – they run for their lives

Cosechas Americanas – al Norte they arrive

Los ninos se lloran, ‘apa – a donde vas?

Their families are starving – what is the cause?


In another instance, Randolph observed a young Mexican woman running into drainage channels or “tubes” on the I-805 Freeway. It was night and the woman didn’t know that the tube dropped from six feet in height to five.

“She hit this drop running at full speed,” he said. “We took her to the hospital with severe head and facial injuries… Sometimes they would run and sometimes they wouldn’t. We saw people get smacked on the freeway a lot.”

Randolph also had fellow agents killed in the line of duty. One was shot while sitting in a surveillance van; the other was shot to death during an undercover operation.

The constant deaths left Randolph questioning, was the loss of life worth it? Was it worth it to for the immigrants to run to the U.S.? Was the patrolling effective? For many it was just a game that often turned deadly.

“They knew it was a game,” he said. “As did we. Sometimes we would catch people and send them back to Mexico. They would leave us by saying, ‘See you tomorrow.’ We didn’t have the resources to stop them. It wasn’t like they had any animosity toward us. This was just something we were both doing. The whole thing seemed so silly and it has turned into a horrible mess.”

They love this new country, they love USA

They start their new families aqui they will stay

Por favor, please forgive them for crossing your line

They seek a new future, aqui on your side


Randolph makes clear that he holds no favor for criminal aliens who come to the U.S. and break laws. “The offices that I worked in rightly deported thousands of criminals every year,” he said. With that, though, Randolph still doesn’t understand why the U.S. arrests the people who pick its fruits and vegetables. So far, he is convinced that the “ineffective” manner in which immigration law is applied is by design.

“If we seal the border, Mexico will collapse and American interests there fail. If we seal the border, U.S. mega agricultural corporations will lose their never-ending supply of cheap labor,” he said, adding that lost in all of this are the lives of people who simply want to work for a better life. “I don’t want them to be forgotten. They are overlooked. We are so used to the convenience of going to the store and buying vegetables and we don’t realize how it got there and how the people who picked it got here.”

Yet, Randolph said he also understands U.S. taxpayers’ frustration with the idea of providing public funds to support Mexican aliens “It is all a real mess,” he said.

For Randolph, writing and performing “Two Pesos Pobres” is therapeutic. He regularly experiences posttraumatic stress-like symptoms from his past working as an agent.

“I dream about this stuff almost nightly,” he said. After writing the song, he sent it out to various government agencies that help immigrants. Almost immediately, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, which provides assistance and a voice for men, women and children who prepare and harvest food, invited him to perform the song in New Orleans.

To coincide with that event, Randolph will sell the CD containing “Two Pesos” and nine other songs, for $5-$10, depending on what people can afford. The proceeds from those album sales will be donated to the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs.

“I am so appreciative of what they do and what they are allowing me to do,” he said. This is not about me making money.”

To purchase the album, email Randolph at j_m_randolph@hotmail.com or call 970/626-3105. Anyone interested can also listen to a live version of the song at youtube.com/user/randee51 or a studio version at www.muzlink.com/artist0011517.code.
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