Monday, April 23, 2007

The leaders of the U.S. Border Patrol’s rank-and-file agents have unanimously voted a no-confidence resolution against Chief David V. Aguilar, citing, among other things, his willingness to believe the “perjured allegations” of criminal aliens over his own agents.

The resolution won endorsement from all 100 top leaders of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), which represents all 11,000 of the U.S. Border Patrol’s nonsupervisory field agents, and targeted Chief Aguilar’s lack of support for field agents, several of whom have been prosecuted on civil rights grounds involving arrests of illegal aliens and drug-smuggling suspects.

“Front-line Border Patrol agents who risk their lives protecting our borders have every reason to expect that the leadership of their own agency will support them,” T.J. Bonner, NBPC president, told The Washington Times yesterday. “When this does not occur, and instead they are undermined by their so-called leaders, no one should be surprised when they express a loss of confidence in those managers.”

The group will release the resolution to the public today.

The NBPC leadership and rank-and-file agents have criticized the chief for failing to publicly support Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, convicted in Texas and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for violating the civil rights of a drug-smuggling suspect they shot in the buttocks as he fled back into Mexico after abandoning 743 pounds of marijuana.

Ramos, 37, and Compean, 28, were sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively, after shooting Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican national who was located in Mexico by Department of Homeland Security officials and returned to the U.S. under a grant of immunity to testify against the two agents. The agents said they fired at the man after he pointed what they thought was a gun at them.

While Chief Aguilar has been publicly silent on the incident, the prosecution and convictions have drawn widespread criticism, including from some members of Congress 90 of whom are co-sponsors of a bill by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, calling for a congressional pardon.

Border Patrol spokesman Xavier Rios challenged the justification for the no-confidence vote, saying there was “no greater advocate than Chief Aguilar for the agents in the field.”

“Chief Aguilar is required to make decisions every day and to make some very tough decisions, some of which are not always popular,” Agent Rios said. “But I’ve been in the Border Patrol for 20 years, starting at the bottom, and I can assure you the chief is committed to carrying out his assignment to the best of his ability.”

Agent Rios also noted that the agency is “better staffed and better funded” than at any other time in its history.

He also said that many agents have been angered over the sentencing on Ramos and Compean but Chief Aguilar “was not in a position to make a statement that would have made a difference.” He said the two agents “shot a man and made an effort to cover it up.”

The unanimous no-confidence vote was cast during a recent meeting of the NBPC leadership in Corpus Christi, Texas. Of the top 100 leaders, including the nine-member NBPC board and its constituent locals, the vast majority are active senior Border Patrol agents, including Mr. Bonner, a 29-year agency veteran.

“This vote of no confidence has nothing to do with the normal tensions between labor and management; those have existed for decades and have involved a number of other Border Patrol chiefs,” Mr. Bonner said. “Despite those occasional differences of opinion, the front-line agents respected those leaders. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

“This lack of leadership has caused morale to plummet, which in turn has accelerated the attrition rate among experienced agents,” he said. “Unless drastic changes are made soon, the goal of securing our borders will remain as elusive as ever.”

The resolution outlined a growing “disconnect” between Chief Aguilar and the agency’s front-line agents, who have been asked by President Bush to play an increasingly larger role in defending the country from terrorists, illegal aliens and drug smugglers. It cited a “growing frustration” among the field agents over the “misguided policies and politics” of the agency and the refusal of its top managers to speak out against them.

It accused the chief of “shamelessly promoting amnesty and a greatly expanded guest-worker program as key elements of the solution to the illegal immigration crisis” despite intense opposition from front-line agents “who risk their lives enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.”

“Instead of maintaining their traditional neutral advisory role, these high-level managers have become advocates for the administration’s ill-conceived political agenda that includes amnesty for millions of illegal aliens,” Mr. Bonner said.

The resolution was critical of efforts to “cut corners in the hiring and training processes” to meet a recruiting goal of 6,000 new agents by the end of Mr. Bush’s term and an order prohibiting agents from enforcing immigration laws in “interior” towns and cities, including many a short distance from the border.

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