November 5, 2014
This article is in response to the recent article “The Green Monster” written by Garrett M. Graff.
As president of the National Border Patrol Council, I have the honor of representing the hardworking, dedicated and patriotic individuals who protect our nation. I would walk through fire to protect the integrity of our 16,000-plus members. But I will never defend the indefensible.
The brutal crimes committed by a Texas-based agent, described in stomach-churning detail in “The Green Monster,” are monstrous, indeed. These heinous acts do not represent the Border Patrol, of course, and should not be used to dismiss or disparage the routine professionalism in our ranks. Wrongdoing should never be covered up, nor should it overshadow the frequent acts of altruism and heroism.
In 2013, for example, Border Patrol agents confiscated 4.6 million pounds of illegal drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. We apprehended more than 420,000 people for illegal entry and in the process kept out of our country nearly 8,000 people wanted for serious crimes (including rape, murder, robbery and assault), not to mention thousands of potentially violent gang members. Our communities are safer and our country more secure because of the everyday efforts of the men and women of the Border Patrol.
We work too hard to have our efforts undermined by a poorly vetted Agent. I can tell you with no hesitation whatsoever that there are thousands upon thousands of good Agents, and not one of them wants to work alongside an agent with criminal intentions.
One underlying theme in the story that I completely agree with is the need for greater transparency at CBP. This year’s crisis regarding unaccompanied minors is but one example of CBP not being forthright with the American people about the challenges Agents face at the border.
Ask any high-ranking CBP official if the border is secure and they will tell you unequivocally yes. Ask a field Agent the same question and you will get a decidedly different answer. Not a month goes by without lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, calling union leaders asking us what is really going on at the border. These lawmakers tell us that they simply do not believe CBP’s assertions that everything is under control. This trust gap between CBP and policymakers on Capitol Hill is a significant problem. We cannot solve Border Patrol’s problems as long as the Agency acts as if none exist.
The public, which includes the press, also deserves honest answers. Far too often CBP issues a blanket “no comment” to reporters who are trying to cover use-of-force and other incidents involving the Border Patrol. Nobody is suggesting that operational details be divulged. Nobody is suggesting that ongoing investigations be compromised. However, CBP’s wall of silence to virtually all legitimate inquiries is counterproductive. It needlessly breeds mistrust with the public who rightfully have questions about actions that have been taken by the Agency or individual Agents.
“Honor first” is the Border Patrol’s motto and we take it seriously. But honor requires honesty from top to bottom. We must always balance the demands of transparency with a respect for due process. If an Agent is accused of wrongdoing, we must make sure that due process is not sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
We commend Politico for shining a bright light on some of the Border Patrol’s most confounding realities and glaring weaknesses. Rather than deny the painful issues, we are willing to tackle them. We look forward to working with Commissioner Kerlikowske to find fixes sooner rather than later.
Together we can build and maintain a workforce defined by excellence and personal integrity. The countless Border Patrol agents who perform their duties with utter professionalism deserve nothing less.