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Smugglers cut border fence PDF
Saturday, 07 February 2009


Border Patrol: Agents do make repairs to recently-built barrier

By Jonathon Shacat
Herald/Review
Published: Saturday, February 7, 2009 4:15 AM MST
BISBEE — Smugglers recently removed two mesh panels from U.S.-Mexico border fencing located east of the San Pedro River, and Border Patrol officials have repaired them.

The precise location of these fence sections is near low-water crossing number 38, known as Gringo Wash.

The damage to one section was discovered on Jan. 28. Officials fixed it late last week. Officials noticed the damage on the other section last Monday and it was fixed this week.

Bill Odle, who owns land along the border near the San Pedro River, said the smugglers cut out the entire mesh fencing panels and then replaced them so it appeared they had not been tampered with.

He thinks they were moving vehicles across with the use of a small ramp, based on the large size of the opening and the presence of tracks on both sides of the border.

Mike Scioli, a public information officer for Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, said every 48 hours a team goes out and puts patches onto the fencing where it has been breached.

“Agents working in the field who notice anything like that make sure a report gets sent in and they relay it to that crew and they take care of it also,” he said.

The government decided to build fencing with the “eye-aesthetically pleasing” mesh material because “a lot of people said they didn’t want the fence because it blocked their view of Mexico,” Scioli said.

Also, he said, the mesh material “is hard to climb because the little squares are so small you can’t get fingers or a foot grip in them.” More importantly, he added, the Border Patrol’s camera systems can see through it.

The mesh is thin, however, making it relatively easy for someone to use a torch to cut through it. Not all sections of fencing in the area consist of the mesh material.

“We have a number of different styles throughout the sector,” Scioli said. “There is the bollard-style that is concrete filled. It goes about 4 to 5 feet into ground and is about 14 to 16 feet high.”

Odle said the fencing is clearly not stopping people. Not only do they climb over it, they also cut it open so they can travel through it.

Angela de Rocha, of Customs and Border Protection’s office of public affairs in Washington, D.C, said the fence is only one part of a three-element strategy, including fence, surveillance technology and increased Border Patrol manpower.

“The purpose of the fence is to slow illegal crossers down enough that the Border Patrol can catch them,” she said.

REPORTER Jonathon Shacat can be reached at 515-4693 or by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 
Senate Stimulus: 300,000 Jobs for Illegals? PDF
Wednesday, 04 February 2009

Senate Stimulus: 300,000 Jobs for Illegals?

1 in 7 New Construction Jobs Could Go to Illegal Immigrants

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 4, 2008) — The Senate Stimulus bill currently being considered contains about $104 billion in new government funding for construction projects with the goal of creating jobs for millions of unemployed Americans. Unlike the House version, there is no provision in the bill to bar illegal immigrants from getting these taxpayer-funded jobs. This could result in several hundred thousand illegal immigrants receiving jobs.

 

  • The current version of the Senate Stimulus bill (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) contains $104 billion in construction spending, including highways, schools, and public housing.
  • Government estimates suggest this spending should create about 2 million new construction jobs.
  • Consistent with other research, the Center Immigration Studies has previously estimated that 15 percent of construction workers are illegal immigrants.
  • This means that about 300,000 of the construction jobs created by the Senate stimulus could go to illegal aliens (15 percent of 2 million).

Read more...
 
Napolitano Finessing Immigrant Crackdown PDF
Tuesday, 03 February 2009
 

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Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)

Like Michael Chertoff, her predecessor as chief of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano doesn't have the power to change immigration law. She's there to administer the department, enforce the law, and keep the homeland secure.

Like Chertoff, Napolitano knows that strict law enforcement alone will not solve the nation's immigration crisis. The outgoing secretary repeatedly said that the immigration crisis would persist until Congress passes a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).

Chertoff made the case that he was "restoring integrity" to immigration law enforcement and border control. Once Americans were assured that the border was secure and that the government was truly enforcing immigration law, he argued, there would then be more political space for CIR , especially expanded temporary worker programs.

With the enforcement-first approach firmly in place at DHS, the new secretary is now signaling her commitment to iron out the wrinkles of the enforcement-first approach, including detention standards and the efficiencies of federal-local collaboration.

In a Jan. 30 departmental directive on immigration and border control, Napolitano says: "Smart, resolute enforcement by the department can keep Americans safe, foster legal immigration to America, protect legitimate commerce, and lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive reform." It is the last in an initial series of 11 directives issued by Napolitano.

In this new directive, she poses a series of questions to departmental officials responsible for immigration law enforcement and border security and expects reports back to her by Feb. 20. The questions indicate a shift away from Chertoff's hard-line approach, which often seemed devoid of any humanity or concern about the social, economic, and environmental consequences of the department's immigrant crackdown.

But the new directive will certainly disappoint those hoping for a rejection of Chertoff's law-and-order regimen for immigration by Napolitano and the Obama administration. Instead of rejecting the enforcement-only approach as inhumane, Napolitano seems intent on rationalizing and finessing the crackdown launched by her predecessor, while making improvements around the edges.

Napolitano is following the lead of congressional Democrats in insisting that DHS place yet greater attention on deporting "criminal aliens" and fugitives. For the past two years the Democrat-led House and Senate committees increased the president's proposed budget for deporting "criminal aliens."

Democrats like Sen. Robert Byrd (WV) and Rep. David Price (NC) insisted that DHS prioritize criminal alien deportation. Price also recommended that DHS end its workplace raids and instead use time and money to remove all criminal immigrants.

Napolitano apparently wants to expand the Secure Communities Program, an adjunct of DHS' Criminal Aliens Program designed "to identify and remove aliens unlawfully present who are involved in criminal activity." In her recent directive, Napolitano asks Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials: "How can we best accelerate its [Secure Communities] development and expansion?"

Rather than pulling back from Chertoff's initiatives to involve state and local governments in immigration enforcement, Napolitano is apparently interested in increasing this intergovernmental cooperation. With respect to the controversial 287(g) program, which she says "provides for agreements whereby federally trained and supervised state and local law enforcement officials can participate in the investigation, apprehension, and transport of unauthorized aliens," Napolitano asks, "What can be done to expedite more agreements," and "How does this model compare in cost, effectiveness, and administration, to other forms of cooperation?"

As Arizona governor, Napolitano deployed the National Guard to the border to assist the Border Patrol. Now as DHS chief, she is exploring new DHS cooperation with Guard units. She asks: "What overarching plans exist for coordinating with the Guard at the border? How could the arrangements for the Guard's presence be made more effective for support of DHS missions?"

Napolitano is also seeking increased state and local cooperation in the DHS' effort to locate imprisoned and jailed immigrants so that they will be immediately deported upon release. "What measures are needed," she inquires, rightfully, "and with what priority, to secure expansion of this resource-saving program?"

After Sept. 11 and as a complement to the USA Patriot Act, the Bush administration created Fugitive Operations Teams to hunt down "fugitive aliens." Initially, immigrants deemed a threat to national security were the priority, but finding few of these, the teams began casting a wider and wider net, prioritizing those with criminal records deemed dangerous to communities, and secondarily those with misdemeanors. From only a couple of dozen teams at the creation of DHS in early 2003, the department now has 104 seven-person teams deployed around the country.

"How can fugitives be more effectively prioritized for these purposes and what steps can be taken to expedite removal?" she asks. And in evident recognition of the mounting criticism that the raids by the Fugitive Operations Teams are resulting in an increasing proportion of "collateral" arrests, she advises that the department should "clearly differentiate the number of fugitives that are actually removed versus those aliens unlawfully present who are simply encountered by the teams while on assignment."

As a candidate, Obama declared his support for an employment verification program that would make it impossible for illegal immigrants to find employment in the economy's formal sector. While the DHS has postponed the required implementation of the E-Verify Program, Napolitano's directive indicates that DHS is committed to instituting the program as a key component of its strategy to enforce immigration law. Recognizing the problem of "false negatives" and "false positives," she seems intent on improving the reliability of the program, rather than rejecting it, as immigrant-rights, civil-libertarian, and labor organizations advocate.

"Reducing unauthorized employment is crucial for controlling the problem of illicit migration," states Napolitano. "E-Verify has been a key component in proposals for comprehensive immigration reform and holds real promise as a central element in effective immigration enforcement that combines border efforts with interior measures."

"How can DHS expand such monitoring, including alternative strategies such as electronic detection of suspicious patterns, with an indication of resource requirements? What role could data-mining or other innovative strategies play in helping to identify false positives and false negatives?" are among the questions she wants answered.

Among the directives there were a few indications that Napolitano might have a softer touch than Chertoff. Pointing to "recent media accounts," she expresses concern that petitions for legal residency by immigrant widows and widowers of now-deceased U.S. citizens have been denied by the department's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. "What are the regulatory, legislative, and litigation options that could be considered to immediately address the situation of these widows and widowers?" she asks.

Her latest directive also contains a small section devoted to immigrant detention. She asks if the detention standards are adequate, if they apply to all detention centers used for ICE detainees, and what corrective actions are taken if the standards are violated. In a sign that may recognize the validity of criticism that immigrant detention is often unnecessary, Napolitano asks, "What are the prospects, advantages, and disadvantages of expanding the use of community-based alternatives to detention or of less restrictive models of detention?"

There is also a section on southbound arms smuggling in the wide-ranging directive, indicating the new DHS chief's concern about the "growing wave of criminal violence in Mexico's border communities and in the interior of the country, fueled by the availability of guns and currency smuggled south from the United States."

"Please explain," she says, "how these efforts [to obstruct arms smuggling] will be enhanced with funding from the Merida Initiative and how this is being coordinated with the states and the Office of National Drug Control Policy."

Napolitano's immigration and border security directive isn't a statement of policy or strategy. But it is an indicator of how she will direct immigration enforcement and border control. Those who were expecting the former border governor and federal prosecutor to call a halt to the immigrant crackdown and to the post-Sept. 11 border build-up will be sorely disappointed.

There will likely be some changes around the edges, such as improved detention standards and monitoring, but no rethinking of immigration enforcement and border security will likely come from Napolitano. No questions or concerns about the multitude of issues and problems that resulted from the security-driven campaign to fortify the border and round up suspect immigrants—the value of the border wall, the central role of private prisons in immigrant detention, the wisdom of U.S. drug policy with respect to border drug-related violence, the decreased attention to political asylum and refugee policy, the consequences of workplace raids, etc.—are being raised.

A professional bureaucrat and politician, Napolitano is busy organizing, systematizing, and improving the crackdown that Chertoff so zealously spearheaded.

Tom Barry, a senior analyst with the Center for International Policy, directs the TransBorder Project of the Americas Program. Barry blogs at www.borderlinesblog.blogspot.com.

 
SoCal border agents complain of quotas PDF
Sunday, 01 February 2009

1:00 p.m. February 1, 2009

— U.S. Border Patrol agents working about 100 miles north of the Mexican border say they have been given arrest quotas at odds with agency practices and threatened with punishment if they fail to meet the number.

Agents stationed in Riverside reported being ordered to arrest at least 150 suspected illegal immigrants in January and that two such arrests must lead to prosecutions, said Lombardo Amaya, president of Local 2554 of the National Border Patrol Council.

"They were told if you don't produce this, we will have to change your weekends off," Amaya said, adding that he will discuss the matter Monday with the sector chief who oversees the station. "Sometimes, like in politics, this agency is about looking good."

The alleged quotas, which involve only the Border Patrol's Riverside station, run counter to agency practice, which does not set a minimum number of arrests that must be made, said Lloyd Easterling, an agency spokesman in Washington.

"If we had quotas to fill and met those quotas, then would that mean we would be able to stop doing our job? No. Our job is to secure the border and detect, deter and apprehend anyone who is involved in illegal activity between the ports of entry," Easterling said.

Jeffrey Calhoon, chief patrol agent for El Centro sector, said he was not aware of any quotas and did not order them.

"We would never structure our work environment to create quotas," Calhoon said. "We have a union we have to negotiate with."

The agents' allegations come just weeks after one of their colleagues at the Riverside station was fired over a dispute with local management.

The union has filed a grievance appealing the termination of Tony Platell, who says he was dismissed for disobeying an order to remain at a desert freeway checkpoint where six suspected illegal immigrants were picked up. Platell said he wanted to take them to the station quickly because they looked dehydrated.

Arturo Alcaraz, the lead union representative at the Riverside station, said the 150-arrest mandate last month was a jump from targets set at the end of last year to make 100 arrests in both November and December.

Alcaraz said supervisors also told agents last October they could return to the station once they had arrested eight suspected illegal immigrants on a given day – even if it only took them 20 minutes.

"The quality of the apprehensions no longer counts," Alcaraz said.

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council – which represents close to 15,000 Border Patrol agents – said quotas are unwise and unfair to agents because encounters with suspected illegal immigrants vary from day to day.

"You don't want to encourage agents to go out and look for something that isn't there because that is when you start to get into trouble," Bonner said.

Border Patrol officials declined to provide arrest statistics for the Riverside station, which has been in operation since 1967.

Immigrant rights advocates have questioned whether the quotas were driving Border Patrol agents to make more arrests in heavily populated areas and at day labor sites.

On Thursday, agents in Riverside took at least 11 suspected illegal immigrants into custody after local police detained them near a Home Depot store, Calhoon said.

Border Patrol agents also made arrests near a day labor corner in San Bernardino around Christmas that outraged immigrant advocates, who said the arrests were unusual so far from the border and appeared to infringe on workers' right to equal protection under the law.

"The fact that is disturbing is they appear to be jettisoning a whole number of constitutional protections to get numbers quickly," said Chris Newman, legal programs director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "What is more important to them: the quota or the Constitution?"

Some of the Border Patrol agents said they were concerned that requiring a certain number of arrests might lead agents to focus more on making stops at places like Home Depot rather than going after more challenging cases such as tracking down drug or immigrant smugglers.

But Calhoon said agents at the station in Riverside, a city of about 295,000 people about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, have long made arrests in urban areas and have the authority to do so under U.S. law.

He said the small station is part of the patrol's three tiers of enforcement: the border, checkpoints, and coordinated interior operations.

"We've never restricted our agents from arresting someone they casually encountered on the street," Calhoon said.

 
Border chief wins bonus despite criticism PDF
Thursday, 08 January 2009

Border chief wins bonus despite criticism

(Contact)
Thursday, January 8, 2009

 

The Bush administration has awarded a $61,200 bonus to Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar, whose agency has been criticized in the past year by Congress for delays in a $20 million fence project and for an accelerated hiring program that auditors said threatens to reduce qualified field supervisors.

The chief also has been criticized by his own rank and file for not supporting two agents sent to prison for shooting a drug smuggler in the buttocks as he fled back to Mexico, and greeted with a unanimous "no confidence" vote by the union representing non-supervisory agents.

The presidential merit award, equal to 35 percent of Chief Aguilar's $172,000 annual pay, is 1.7 times larger than the base starting salary of $36,658 for a Border Patrol agent. The bonus has angered many field agents, some of whom told the chief in a terse, unsigned letter that the agency has been damaged and field agents jeopardized by his "politically expedient decisions."

The letter, a copy which was obtained by The Washington Times, challenged Chief Aguilar's job performance since his May 2004 appointment, saying there had "never been a time when our chief has been so out of touch with the field, or a time when our chief has become a politician and lost sight of his most important responsibility: to be an advocate for the agency and its mission."

"You clearly see yourself as an agent of change for political bosses rather than a person who has been entrusted to ensure that the Border Patrol remains a top-notch law enforcement agency, ready and able to carry out its critical function," the letter said.

Mr. Aguilar declined to be interviewed, deferring to his spokesman, who issued a statement defending the chief's work without addressing the merits of the bonus.

Jeffrey C. Robertson, assistant commissioner for public affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees the Border Patrol, acknowledged that the chief had received the letter but declined to comment publicly on what action, if any, had been taken on it.

Mr. Robertson said, however, that decisions concerning the border fence project and the academy classes were made "corporately and ultimately" by CBP and the Department of Homeland Security, not Chief Aguilar, whom he described as a "zealous advocate" for the Border Patrol's front-line agents

The agents' four-page letter focuses on two major topics: a virtual fence project along the Arizona-Mexico border that it called "ineffective and too costly," and changes at the Border Patrol Academy to meet a presidential mandate of hiring 6,000 more agents by the end of 2008.

The letter accused Chief Aguilar of ignoring top Border Patrol executives who unanimously opposed the academy changes.

Fifteen field agents contacted by The Times all said they had seen the letter and said the concerns it raised were "right on" or "pretty accurate." They said it had been widely circulated, and that its writers did not sign the letter for fear of losing their jobs or receiving some sort of punishment.

The letter focused on the Presidential Rank Award, which President Bush gave in December to Chief Aguilar for "sustained extraordinary accomplishment." Career senior executives from across government are nominated by their agency heads, evaluated by citizen panels and designated by the president -- each receiving a bonus equal to 35 percent of their annual salary.

The 2008 awards will be given in February to 57 government executives from 24 agencies.

Chief Aguilar was being paid $172,000 annually at the time of the award, Border Patrol spokesman Michael Friel said, but his salary was raised to $177,000 on Jan. 4. Mr. Friel also confirmed the bonus amount.

The letter is the most recent evidence of continuing dissension within the Border Patrol ranks. Chief Aguilar was bitterly challenged by many of the agency's rank and file for not supporting Agents Ignacio Ramos and Alonso Compean, who were convicted in the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, who later pleaded guilty to federal drug smuggling charges in a separate smuggled load of marijuana.

The agents were sentenced to 10- and 11-year prison terms.

The leadership of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents the agency's non-supervisory personnel, voted a no-confidence resolution against the chief in April 2007. It won the unanimous endorsement of all 100 of the NBPC's national leadership.

The union later accused the chief of trying to "intimidate" field agents to discredit the vote, saying he "willfully and blatantly" violated federal guidelines by sending a top aide to seek a "show of hands" among field agents for those who supported the chief in the wake of the no-confidence vote -- knowing the agents would not risk retaliation by publicly opposing the chief.

The letter outlines what it called a "disconnect" between Chief Aguilar and front-line agents and cites a "growing frustration" over the chief's "misguided policies and politics."

It criticized a new fence along 28 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border, saying taxpayers had spent more than $20 million on a project that "has not been fully functional for a single day since we were forced to accept delivery by your office." It said that while the fence, known as Project 28, was supposed to provide a blueprint for effective border security, field agents had no input into its development and Chief Aguilar ignored warnings that it had no chance to live up to expectations.

 

"The Department of Homeland Security and CBP went overboard hyping this project and you avoided political risk by remaining silent while we were being force-fed inadequate equipment," it said. "Where was your voice of advocacy to make sure we got what we needed to successfully carry out our mission?"

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in a report last year that it did not know what criteria had been used to accept the $20.6 million project near Sasabe, Ariz., and that the fence did not meet expectations and was not "the ultimate system" that had been envisioned. It also said field agents had not been consulted prior to its construction, and that Border Patrol executives in Washington slowed the project down.

The GAO said the scheduled 2008 deployment of about 100 miles of virtual fence in Arizona and Texas had been delayed until the end of 2011. Its future in the Obama administration is uncertain, because Mr. Obama and other Democrats have criticized the plan, although the president-elect earlier voted for it.

Mr. Robertson described the project as a "first step" in gaining operational control of the border, adding that while it had not fully met operational needs, it proved that the concept of linked sensor towers, ground-based radar and camera systems was solid, and demonstrated that work could begin toward developing a system to meet the needs of agents on the ground.

He also said Chief Aguilar had argued "uncompromisingly that the eventual deployed operational system had to first and foremost work for frontline agents in a way that made their jobs easier, safer and more effective." He said the project now includes the "full participation and input of Border Patrol agents."

During a House subcommittee hearing last year, Chief Aguilar acknowledged that senior Border Patrol officials had not consulted with the field agents who would use the system before it was installed. He told two House subcommittees that future projects would include increased input from field personnel.

In their letter, the agents also accused the chief of making "radical changes" at the Border Patrol Academy to meet a presidential mandate of recruiting, hiring and training 6,000 new agents by the end of Mr. Bush's term.

They said that when the chief first proposed the idea of an altered academy, top Border Patrol executives unanimously opposed it but he ignored the "substantive misgivings expressed by your senior field leaders" and went ahead with the changes without further consultation.

"You supported the transformation of one of the best law enforcement academies in the country into a diploma mill," they said, adding that the academy was altered and shortened to produce "more agents, not better agents."

"Many criminals were able to enter on duty here in Tucson because of the sloppy hiring practices implemented by your office as you strived to meet the political goal of hiring thousands of agents," the letter said. "Again, advocacy took a back seat to political appeasement. We are unsure to this day if we have successfully weeded out all the criminals you permitted to infiltrate our organization."

In a separate report, the GAO said there were serious questions about whether the Border Patrol adequately can supervise and train the 6,000 new agents. Despite assurances from agency executives, the report said, the planned addition of the agents on the southwestern border - coupled with the transfer of experienced agents to the northern border - will "likely reduce the overall experience level" of those on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The report described as "the larger challenge" the agency's ability to provide adequate supervision and training - post-deployment - for the influx of agents, adding that the Border Patrol will be "relying on a higher proportion of less seasoned agents" to supervise new agents.

The GAO first raised questions in April 2007 when it said the Border Patrol had let its on-the-job training of new field agents slip as it sought to meet the president's goal, adding that although its academy training program was "in line" with other law enforcement agencies, it is not clear whether hiring "such an unprecedented number of new agents" would become a strain.


David V. Aguilar

Mr. Robertson said the hiring of 6,000 more Border Patrol agents to meet Mr. Bush's end-of-the-year mandate of 18,000 total agents was not a decision by Chief Aguilar but by Congress and the nation's political leadership "spurred on by the American people´s desire to gain control of the nation´s borders as quickly as possible."

He described the hirings as a "tremendous accomplishment," and added that while the Border Patrol Academy training had changed, its law enforcement courses and requirements had not.

"The truth about the academy is -- law enforcement training and immigration law classroom hours that Border Patrol Agents took before were left unchanged. Training today is different only because the Spanish language classroom work requirements have been adapted to address the new generation of agents-in-training allowing those proficient in the language to test out and go to their duty station earlier," he said.

"This common sense decision is saving taxpayers money by putting new Spanish proficient Border Patrol agents at their duty stations rather than in classrooms studying a language they already speak," he said, noting that the change had saved 22,191 classroom training days at a savings to taxpayers of $2.3 million.

 

 
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