- - Monday, February 7, 2022

This past week we all caught a glimpse into the magnitude of the fecklessness shown by Department of Homeland Security leadership as Border Patrol agents confronted them. While attending a “muster” in Yuma, Arizona, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was inundated with passionate, well-informed and legitimate concerns from the agents.

Their questions centered around the dramatic shift away from previous effective policies, resulting in the worst crisis along our southern border in modern history. Agents also voiced their dismay over their inability to safeguard the nation because they’re constantly being pulled off the front line to address the massive invasion of more than 3 million illegal immigrants who attempted to break into our country during the past 12 months.

The agents have been thrust into an untenable crisis they know jeopardizes our nation’s public safety, health and national security. The Yuma Sector is yet another area that’s turned into the wild west, evidenced by a 3,000% increase in illegal entries in the past year. The Border Patrol agents are frustrated, angry and demoralized as they have been forced to watch our nation’s borders be handed over to cartels that have flooded our country with drugs, gang members and criminal aliens, as well as exacerbating our national security vulnerabilities. They have been forced by this administration to relinquish their sworn duty to secure our nation’s borders and instead been relegated to acting as travel agents on behalf of the cartels. Damn right, they’re mad!

What was Mr. Mayorkas’ response to the agents’ outcry for help? That is exactly what you would expect from a secretary who is less concerned with protecting our homeland than pushing his personal ideology and political agenda. Mr. Mayorkas attempted to placate them by admitting the invasion along our southern border is “worse now than it, frankly, has been for at least 20 years, if not ever.” He continued to confess he’s fully aware the workforce vehemently disagrees with the administration’s policies.

But then the real secretary emerged. He just couldn’t stop himself from displaying a level of arrogance, dismissiveness and disrespect we’ve come to expect from this man. Rather than acknowledge that there has to be a dramatic change in policies and swift corrective action, he told the agents, “That’s just the reality.”  Translation — shut up and deal with it.

Mr. Mayorkas couldn’t have been any more condescending and tone-deaf to the agents who stood before him. While the secretary gives himself an “A for effort” job rating, he’s been lying to the American people, and he’s now lied directly to the workforce. They give him an F for results, and they’re angry.

No, Mr. Secretary, our borders are not closed. They are wide open, and it’s your policies that have opened them to the entire world. No, Mr. Secretary, the horse patrol agents you vilified and scapegoated were actually not whipping anyone. As one courageous agent who turned his back on the Secretary rightfully declared, the secretary turned his back on them the day he took office.

But the bad week for DHS “leadership” didn’t end in Yuma. As they continued their “just shut up and take it” tour, they landed in Laredo, Texas. This time, the secretary quickly punted to the chief of the Border Patrol, Raul Ortiz, as he slithered into the background while big brother rode to the rescue an obvious wounded secretary.

It was laughable. Rather than serve as a relentless advocate for those under his charge, the chief stepped up and began to recite his list of well-prepared defensive talking points. But the agents weren’t having any of it. It was then I witnessed what may be the worst display of leadership I’ve seen in my 35 years serving this country. Rather than show a modicum of empathy, understanding or compassion for the agent’s legitimate concerns, their own chief began to raise his voice, talk over them, interrupt them and chastise them for expressing their frustrations. At one point, he advanced toward the agents while loudly exclaiming inexplicably it’s their fault for not “taking care of me.”  

Mr. Ortiz continued his tirade, accusing agents of getting “caught up” in policies and “semantics.” Do you mean the policies that have encouraged, incentivized and facilitated the worst crisis at the southern border in modern history? The agents weren’t asking their chief for higher pay or more vacation days. They were asking to help them enforce the rule of law and uphold their constitutional obligations to safeguard our nation’s borders.

They were trying to tell their chief the administration is crushing their morale. Being part of a politically driven effort to sabotage enforcement of our borders, allowing the cartels to expand their invasion of our country with devastating results, is not what they signed up for. They didn’t sign up “for good men to do nothing.” They feel abandoned by their own chief, who remained silent as the president of the United States unjustly vilified them.

These are defining moments for leaders, and both Mr. Mayorkas and Mr. Ortiz failed miserably. It is they who have abandoned their oaths and commitments to our country and the men and women they serve — shattering our trust, respect and confidence in them along the way.  

• Mark Morgan is a senior fellow at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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