FORT HANCOCK, Texas (AP) — After a bad day on the job as a Border Patrol agent, Eddie DeLaCruz went home and began discussing with his wife how to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Then he casually pressed his government-issued handgun under his chin and pulled the trigger.
“It was the ugliest sound I ever heard in my life,” his widow, Toni DeLaCruz, recalled of that day last November. “He just collapsed.”
A month later, one of DeLaCruz’s colleagues at the Fort Hancock border post put a bullet through his head, too.
Suicides including these have set off alarm bells throughout the agency responsible for policing the nation’s borders. After nearly four years without a single suicide in their ranks, border agents are killing themselves in greater numbers. Records obtained by The Associated Press show that at least 15 agents have taken their own lives since February 2008 — the largest spike in suicides the agency has seen in at least 20 years.
It’s unclear exactly why the men ended their lives. Few of them left notes. And the Border Patrol seems somewhat at odds with itself over the issue.
If ever there were an opportunity to reach out to the law enforcement community this is it. The opportunity for chaplains or clergy reaching out to these officers would seem to be a possibility in helping the officers cope with the stresses of this difficult job.
As many ministries that are along the border reaching out to Hispanics across the border, they should also consider forming a group(s) to minister to the officers that protect our borders. There is obviously a need for these officers to talk to someone and the confidentiality of a clergy member would be a great help.
Let us pray for the families of those who have taken their life as well as pray for the opportunity for Christians to reach out to these officers and their families who are struggling with the difficult task they face each day.