As the community gathered to pay their respects to a fallen border patrol agent in Sierra Vista, union leaders expressed concerns about the impact of funding cuts on training programs aimed at agent safety, out on the front lines of our nation's border.
"The desert is a very dangerous place, the border is not safe," said Art Del Cueto, president of the local 2544 border patrol union in Tucson.
Del Cueto said in the last year, federal funding cuts had led to the loss of a crucial firearms safety program.
"It is combat type of training to assist agents in stressful situations like that," said Del Cueto.
His comments came on an emotional evening for the border patrol community.
Hundreds showed up at the Hatfield funeral home in Sierra Vista for the visitation of Nicholas Ivie.
The 30-year old agent from Provo, Utah was shot and killed in the early morning hours while responding to a sensor that had gone off in a remote part of the desert in Naco.
Investigators believe this may be a case of "friendly fire" after another agent shot Ivie, thinking they were under attack by illegal border crosser's.
The border patrol honor guard lined up outside the Hatfield funeral home, saluting Ivie's family as they walked in.
The lines to get in were about a block long at one time.
Funeral director Charlie Kennedy said the crowd was "wall to wall" inside.
Kennedy, who was a friend of Nicholas Ivie said this was a particularly difficult funeral for him to arrange.
Kennedy said Ivie lay in a closed casket with an American flag draped around it, each side of the casket flanked by an border patrol agent.
Agents had been with Ivie's body since it arrived at the Hatfield funeral home.
"Border Patrol agents, they have a watch where they stay with him. They will be watching over Nicholas until he is interred up in Spanish Forks next Thursday," said Kennedy.
Outside the funeral home you could hear the chilling sound of bag pipes. The flag flew at half staff, as border patrol agents showed up one by one. The bond of brotherhood that shone strong in the light of this tragedy.
Among the crowds were strangers, who had never even met Nick Ivie. The Enger's drove up from Hereford to pay their respects.
"The man gave his life to help save my life. My wife's life, my property. I have to respect that. I have to say hi to his family," said Frank Enger.
Del Cueto said Ivie's death emphasizes the importance of training for agents out on the front lines, protecting our border.
"You find the budget. Find the money. It's found for other things like flying our higher-ups across the country in Blackhawk helicopters. I am sad for the uniform, sad for the agency. An agent lost his life. Our focal point is that the border is not safe. We need proper training and if we do not receive proper training incidents like this can happen," said Del Cueto.
A spokesman for Border Patrol said they were unable to comment on the issue tonight, but they would look into it and be able to provide us more information later this week.
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