- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Border Patrol chief at one of the nation’s most dangerous Southwest border crossings says the agency’s mission doesn’t include apprehending illegal aliens or seizing narcotics — perplexing front-line agents and angering a congressional critic of illegal immigration.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” Carlos X. Carrillo, Border Patrol chief of Laredo, Texas, told guests at a town-hall meeting Thursday. “The Border Patrol’s job is not to stop illegal immigrants. The Border Patrol’s job is not to stop narcotics. … The Border Patrol’s mission is not to stop criminals.

“The Border Patrol’s mission is to stop terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the country.”

Law-enforcement agencies consider Laredo to be one of the Southwest’s most dangerous border crossings. It is the sister city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, which is controlled by one of that country’s most ruthless drug-smuggling rings.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, called for Mr. Carrillo’s resignation Friday. He also questioned how the recently appointed official could tell the difference between an illegal alien and a terrorist.

“If the Border Patrol has developed a new technology that can distinguish between terrorists and other illegal border crossers without first catching them and checking them out, that is good news,” said Mr. Tancredo, an outspoken critic of illegal immigration and a presidential candidate. “But if that is not the case, Mr. Carrillo’s statements are extremely irresponsible and demoralizing to officers in the field.”

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing 12,000 front-line agents, said he was baffled by the Laredo chief’s statements.

“It is shocking that such a high-ranking official would make a statement that is so completely at odds with the law and the Border Patrol’s mission,” Mr. Bonner said. “It is equally disturbing that no one at a higher level has taken any steps to reassure employees and the public that the Border Patrol will continue to intercept all illicit traffic that it encounters.

“The failure to do so has caused more than a few front-line agents to nervously wonder if the mission has indeed changed, and if they will face punishment for apprehending illegal aliens or drugs,” he said.

The Border Patrol’s mission has been at the center of debates within the agency since the September 11 attacks.

If “Mr. Carrillo’s remarks represent a new mission statement not yet published by the Department of Homeland Security, then Secretary [Michael] Chertoff needs to come up to Capitol Hill and explain this new mission, because it seems suicidal to me,” Mr. Tancredo said.

David Aguilar, head of the Border Patrol, defended Mr. Carrillo and said his comments were taken out of context.

“Our mission is to protect our country’s borders from all threats,” Mr. Aguilar said. “Our highest priority is keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering our country.

“We have never, nor will we ever, decrease or minimize our aggressive efforts in enforcing the rule of law.”

Laredo was the site of many congressional hearings over illegal aliens last year. The World Trade Bridge — a major crossing between Nuevo Laredo and Laredo — is used by Mexican cartels smuggling narcotics to as far north as Canada.

Law-enforcement officials testified before Congress last year that the Border Patrol needs to focus on Nuevo Laredo because it is Mexico’s largest inland port and is a major point of origin for truck traffic into the United States.

“If the Border Patrol is no longer trying to stop illegal entry into our country, border states will have to set up their own border police to halt this flow,” Mr. Tancredo said. “I think this will be news to the governors in Texas, Arizona, California and a dozen states on the northern border.”

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