An Open Letter to CBP Commissioner Kerlikowske

By Dan Cadman on March 7, 2016

A few days ago, reacting to in-depth critiques from knowledgeable Border Patrol agents (BPAs) who happen also to be officials of the union that represents BPAs — see, for example, here and here — Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of the Border Patrol's parent agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had this to say, according to the Washington Times:

Well if you really don't want to follow the directions of your superiors, including the president of the United States and the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, then you really do need to look for another job.

Kerlikowske's comments have BPAs and ICE agents all over the country, active-duty and retired, in a furor. As one succinctly mocked, "Those lazy agents should just say they were 'following orders.' It worked at Nuremberg, right?"

My response is an open letter to the CBP Commissioner:

Dear Commissioner Kerlikowske,

Your public comments suggesting that loyal, dedicated agents committed to the best interests of the United States should quit, rather than air their deep concerns over the legitimacy of the orders they are receiving, put your own judgment into question.

Unlike you, who have followed the political winds from job to job to pursue career advancement, they have committed themselves to a professional life of service in one of the most difficult and demanding law enforcement jobs in the country.

Unlike you, who serve in the comfort of the halls of power in Washington, D.C., they are on the "sharp end of the spear", serving in a dirty, dusty, and often extremely dangerous border environment. For many of them, this follows honorable service in our armed forces in equally dangerous locations. Can you say as much?

And unlike you, they know full well that when they speak publicly, even though they are exercising their constitutional First Amendment rights, they are putting their own career advancement in jeopardy given the propensity of this administration to muzzle and punish the outspoken, and yet they continue to do so in the common good.

In sum, Mr. Kerlikowske, if there is a question of someone resigning, I believe I know who that should be, and I suspect the majority of Americans do too — and it isn't those patrol agents.