Border Pa­trol con­flict widens; com­plaint filed against chief

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

The Na­tional Border Pa­trol Coun­cil has filed an un­fair la­bor prac­tices com­plaint against U.S. Border Pa­trol Chief David V. Aguilar, say­ing he sought to “in­tim­i­date” field agents in an ef­fort to dis­credit a “no-con­fi­dence” vote by the union’s lead­er­ship.

The Fed­eral La­bor Re­la­tions Author­ity com­plaint, brought by NBPC Vice Pres­i­dent Ge­orge E. McCub­bin III, said Chief Aguilar “will­fully and bla­tantly” vi­o­lated fed­eral guide­lines when he sent 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.

Rep­re­sent­ing all 11,000 of the Border Pa­trol’s non­super­vi­sory per­son­nel, the NBPC said rank-and-file agents were tar­geted at the be­gin­ning-of-shift “musters” in sta­tions through­out the Tuc­son, Ariz., Border Pa­trol sec­tor and asked whether they had con­fi­dence in Chief Aguilar’s lead­er­ship abil­i­ties.

The com­plaint said some agents also were ap­proached by field man­agers and asked the same ques­tion in what it de­scribed as an ef­fort “de­signed to in­tim­i­date em­ploy­ees.”

The NBPC said ap­pear­ances by Se­nior As­so­ci­ate Border Pa­trol Chief Jeff Self at the meet­ings was a pub­lic re­la­tions ploy aimed at dis­cred­it­ing the no-con­fi­dence vote — which unan­i­mously was ap­proved by all 100 mem­bers of the coun­cil lead­er­ship in Fe­bru­ary — since he knew the rank-and-file mem­bers would not risk re­tal­i­a­tion by pub­licly op­pos­ing Chief Aguilar.

The vote ac­cused the chief of “shame­lessly pro­mot­ing” Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­pos­als for a guest­worker pro­gram that would “re­ward il­le­gal aliens and en­dan­ger field agents,” and noted a “grow­ing frus­tra­tion among front-line em- ploy­ees with the mis­guided poli­cies and pol­i­tics” of the agency and the re­fusal of its top man­agers — in­clud­ing the chief — to speak out against them.

It also ac­cused Chief Aguilar of turn­ing his back on Border Pa­trol agents who have been tar­geted by fed­eral prose­cu­tors in crim­i­nal civil rights cases — in­clud­ing Agents Ig­na­cio Ramos and Jose Alonso Com­pean, who were sen­tenced to 11- and 12-year prison terms, re­spec­tively, for shoot­ing a drugsmug­gling sus­pect as he fled into Mex­ico.

Chief Aguilar has not com­mented pub­licly on the vote and did not re­spond to ques­tions and e-mails con­cern­ing the meet­ings.

The NBPC com­plaint said the Tuc­son sec­tor meet­ings be­gan May 1, fol­low­ing the April 23 pub­lic re­lease of the no-con­fi­dence vote and that union of­fi­cials re­ceived just one no­tice con­cern­ing a sin­gle ses­sion, which was “pro­vided two min­utes prior to its start, not­with­stand­ing the fact that the [NBPC] of­fice and rep­re­sen­ta­tives were 60 miles away.”

It said that on May 3, Chief Aguilar is­sued a mes­sage to all em­ploy­ees con­cern­ing the “staff field vis­its,” say­ing they were aimed at ob­tain­ing feed­back from em­ploy­ees con­cern­ing “how ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion has been be­tween the field and head­quar­ters” and ways to im­prove it and to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion from em­ploy­ees on “op­er­a­tional ini­tia­tives and how they can be im­proved.”

The no­tice also said the meet­ings would “an­swer ques­tions as to what [the agency is] do­ing and [has] done, as well as the rea­sons be­hind those de­ci­sions.”

“It is note­wor­thy that Chief Pa­trol Agent David Aguilar, the same man­age­ment of­fi­cial who or­ches­trated the in­stant vi­o­la­tions, was found guilty of sim­i­lar mis­con­duct by the author­ity on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions when he served as the chief pa­trol agent of the Tuc­son Border Pa­trol sec­tor,” the com­plaint said.

“By th­ese and other ac­tions, the charged party has will­fully and bla­tantly vi­o­lated” the law, it said.

U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sioner W. Ralph Basham, who over­sees the Border Pa­trol, has en­dorsed Chief Aguilar and called the no-con­fi­dence vote “de­ri­sive, detri­men­tal and bla­tantly un­fair.” He said he did not think rank-and-file agents had lost con­fi­dence in the chief.

The Wash­ing­ton-based Fed­eral La­bor Re­la­tions Author­ity ad­ju­di­cates dis­putes un­der the Civil Ser­vice Re­form Act of 1978, which al­lows fed­eral em­ploy­ees to or­ga­nize, bar­gain col­lec­tively and par­tic­i­pate in la­bor or­ga­ni­za­tions.

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