- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham says a “no-confidence” vote against Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar by leaders of the agency’s rank and file is “derisive, detrimental and blatantly unfair” and wants to meet with union leaders to tell them the chief is the right man for the job.

“From my personal experience, I do not believe the rank-and-file agents have lost confidence in this chief,” Mr. Basham said. “I would very much like for the union to come to the table, have a dialogue at this time of great challenge and great opportunity. I’m extending my personal invitation and laying my personal reputation on the line.”

But National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner yesterday called Mr. Basham “a political hack who blindly supports the president’s ill-conceived immigration agenda without regard for the damage it does to the mission of the agency and the security of our borders.”

Mr. Bonner said the council leadership, which represents all 11,000 non-supervisory Border Patrol agents, is willing to talk with Mr. Basham, but has “serious doubts” about his sincerity.

“He appears to be far more concerned about the public perception of the bureau’s leadership than the underlying problems that led to the vote of no confidence,” he said.

Mr. Basham extended the invitation during an interview this week at CBP headquarters in Washington, after passage of the unprecedented no-confidence resolution, which was unanimously approved by the 100 members of the council leadership.

The resolution accused Chief Aguilar of “shamelessly promoting” a Bush amnesty program it said endangers field agents, noting a “growing frustration among front-line employees with the misguided policies and politics” of the agency and the refusal of its top managers to speak out against them.

“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,” it said.

The resolution also said the chief had turned his back on Border Patrol agents who have been convicted in federal civil rights cases, including Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, convicted for violating the civil rights of a Mexican national who abandoned 743 pounds of marijuana in Texas. The agents were sentenced to 11- and 12-year prison terms, respectively, for shooting the drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks as he fled into Mexico.

Mr. Basham, a 37-year federal law-enforcement veteran who formerly headed the U.S. Secret Service, said the decision to charge the agents was made by federal prosecutors in Texas and approved by the Justice Department.

He said a grand jury found that the agents sought to cover up what they did and the lengthy sentences were mandated by federal sentencing guidelines.

Mr. Basham said the case “had nothing to do with Chief Aguilar,” although it put him in a difficult position because it would have been inappropriate for him to make any public comments.

But Mr. Bonner said front-line agents who risk their lives protecting the border “have every reason to expect that the leadership of their own agency will support them,” and when they fail to do so, “no one should be surprised when they express a loss of confidence in those managers.”

He said the government was not required to bring a mandated 10-year firearms charge against the agents, which resulted in the lengthy sentences.

Former CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner, no relation to T.J. Bonner, picked Chief Aguilar for the job and said he did so after concluding he “was the best leader and most effective strategic thinker.”

Mr. Bonner, now in private law practice in Los Angeles, said the chief put together the Border Patrol’s enforcement strategy and personally fought for 6,000 new agents.

“He can get the job done,” he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide