New rules anger bor­der agents

Los Angeles Times - - CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING - By Nigel Duara nigel.duara@latimes.com Twit­ter: @nigel­d­uara

TEMPE, Ariz. — Rankand-file Bor­der Pa­trol agents are fu­ri­ous that they have lost some of their fa­vorite en­force­ment tools and say that in­tense public crit­i­cism of bor­der shoot­ings has led to a morale cri­sis.

“We lack the po­lit­i­cal will to en­force the law and al­low our agency to be ef­fec­tive,” said Na­tional Bor­der Pa­trol Coun­cil spokesman Shawn Moran in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters Wed­nes­day. The call was co­or­di­nated by the coun­cil, the la­bor union that rep­re­sents the agents.

Among the strong­est and most far-reach­ing ac­cu­sa­tions from agents work­ing en­try points in Ari­zona, Texas and Cal­i­for­nia was that the U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion in Washington does not want agents to make drug busts and has taken away their abil­ity to do so.

Shane Gal­lagher, an agent in the San Diego sec­tor, said rov­ing in­ter­dic­tion pa­trols — in which agents would stop sus­pi­cious ve­hi­cles north of the bor­der — were ex­traor­di­nar­ily suc­cess­ful at catch­ing bor­der crossers with drugs. But those pa­trols would then cre­ate un­com­fort­able ques­tions for the ports through which the ve­hi­cles had just passed, he said.

“Now the port of en­try has to ex­plain who was in the pri­mary lane, what ac­tions were taken, if the ve­hi­cle was in­spected. So you can see there’s a whole host of im­pli­ca­tions,” he said.

Though rank-and-file agents saw the value in drug in­ter­dic­tions, Gal­lagher said, agency lead­er­ship did not and dras­ti­cally re­duced the num­ber of agents do­ing such work.

The de­ci­sion to speak with re­porters comes as Bor­der Pa­trol agents have come un­der in­tense crit­i­cism for their in­volve­ment in fa­tal cross-bor­der shoot­ings, in­clud­ing the 2012 slay­ing of a 16-year-old boy who was walk­ing home from a bas­ket­ball game in No­gales, Mexico, when he was hit by a bullet fired by an agent on the Ari­zona side of the bor- der.

Ac­cord­ing to records re­leased last month, only 13 out of 809 abuse com­plaints sent to Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion’s of­fice of in­ter­nal af­fairs be­tween Jan­uary 2009 and Jan­uary 2012 led to dis­ci­plinary ac­tion, and last week the agency named a new head of in­ter­nal af­fairs.

On Thurs­day, a Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion spokesman said the agency would re­spond to the al­le­ga­tions, but it did not com­ment as of late Thurs­day.

The agency also hand­cuffed agents by in­sti­tut­ing civil lib­er­ties pro­tec­tions for po­ten­tial tar­gets of in­ves­ti­ga­tions at public transit sta­tions or on agri­cul­tural land, col­lo­qui­ally known as a “farm and ranch check,” Moran said.

For such checks, he said, agents are re­quired to cre­ate an “oper­a­tions plan” and be able to show su­per­vi­sors some kind of in­tel­li­gence that con­nects tar­gets of in­ves­ti­ga­tions to po­ten­tial crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. No longer, he said, can Bor­der Pa­trol agents sim­ply ques­tion peo­ple at ran­dom.

Amid a flood of im­mi­grant women and chil­dren turn­ing them­selves in at the bor­der in the last year, agents also crit­i­cized ad­min­is­tra­tion di­rec­tives to lend help to neigh­bor­ing agen­cies.

The Bor­der Pa­trol “grew but other agen­cies didn’t grow,” said Tuc­son sec­tor Agent Art Del Cueto. “They’ve been butcher­ing our agency to as­sist other agen­cies.”

Don Bartletti Los An­ge­les Times

BOR­DER PA­TROL agents say new fed­eral reg­u­la­tions will im­pede their abil­ity to do their job.

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