- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

U.S. Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar is being denounced for “intimidation tactics” in sending a top aide to seek a “show of hands” among field agents for those who support the chief, who received a unanimous “no confidence” vote from leaders of the agency’s rank and file.

The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), which represents all 11,000 of the Border Patrol’s non-supervisory field agents, called unannounced appearances last week by Jeff Self, the senior associate Border Patrol chief, at morning briefings at field offices in Tucson and Nogales, Ariz., a public relations ploy aimed at discrediting the no-confidence vote.

“Chief Aguilar has decided to implement intimidation tactics in an effort to undermine the vote of no confidence,” the NBPC’s Local 2544 in Tucson said in a notice to its members. “He has dispatched one of his associates to address musters and to corner rank-and-file agents at their workplaces.

“Our advice at this time is that you refuse to take part in any ‘show of hands’ or any other method that may single you out for retaliation,” it said. “You cannot be forced to participate.”

Since the Border Patrol operates on a military-style basis, the notice said, “we all know most agents are not going to tell Aguilar or one of his associates to their face that they don’t support him. He knows that and will use it to full PR advantage.”

The notice described the unannounced appearances as an “obvious and blatant” attempt by the “Aguilar regime to illegally bypass the union and present its biased point of view directly to the agents.” It said the rank and file will not risk retaliation by publicly opposing Chief Aguilar.

“If these folks are really under the impression that rank-and-file agents support Aguilar, they need their heads examined,” the notice said. “Along the same lines, if they really think that most agents will willingly expose themselves to retaliation by stating publicly that they oppose Aguilar, they should have a re-examination.

“They know that most agents, fearing retaliation from management, will not publicly commit career suicide,” it said.

The NBPC passed an unprecedented no-confidence resolution in February, unanimously approved by all 100 members of the council leadership accusing Chief Aguilar of “shamelessly promoting” Bush administration proposals for a guest-worker program that it says would reward illegal aliens and endanger field agents.

The resolution noted a “growing frustration among front-line employees with the misguided policies and politics” of the agency and the refusal of its top managers — including the chief — to speak out against them. It also accused Chief Aguilar of turning his back on Border Patrol agents being targeted by federal prosecutors and others in criminal civil rights case “for doing their jobs.”

Chief Aguilar has not responded publicly to the vote. His office yesterday did not return telephone inquiries or a list of five questions sent in an e-mail concerning the visit by Associate Chief Self.

Several agents yesterday questioned why Chief Aguilar has not sought to talk with agents directly or to the NBPC if he wants to improve communications with the rank and file.

Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, who oversees the Border Patrol, endorsed the chief and called the vote “derisive, detrimental and blatantly unfair.” He said he did not think rank-and-file agents had lost confidence in the chief.

But the NBPC said in the notice that polls it has conducted, along with meetings with agents, have produced “zero support” for Chief Aguilar and that “the amount of contempt field agents have for Aguilar far exceeds that shown to any previous manager in the Border Patrol or [Immigration and Naturalization Service] for the last 20 years.”

The council challenged the chief to hire an independent polling firm, one that will ensure agent confidentiality, to gauge the “true amount of support he enjoys from field agents and managers” — noting that the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Border Patrol, ranked last in job satisfaction.

“This is shameful, but it continues year after year because our leadership fails to take positive action,” the notice said. “Union officers are elected by secret ballot every two years. It’s too bad some of our managers don’t have to run for office.”

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