Agents Speak Out Against 'No Apprehension' Policy

By Janice Kephart on April 20, 2011

In a strange confluence of news surrounding the activities of the Border Patrol, the agents are speaking out quite loudly – through the conduit of local law enforcement that has repeatedly challenged Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's claims that the "border is as secure as it has ever been." Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu made news that agents in the field are back-channeling complaints to the two sheriffs that they are being told from somewhere high in Customs and Border Protection not to do their jobs fully. Instead, they are to turn around those attempting illegal entry and "scare" them back across the border in order to keep apprehension numbers down – the same numbers the Obama administration is using to justify an unsubstantiated claim that the border is secure and thus the country ready for amnesty. The accusations are harsh, and denied by the administration. Yet I had been hearing these same comments for months myself but lacked sufficient proof to go public.

Meanwhile, a few days ago Senators Kyl and McCain released a tougher border plan than the one issued during campaigning last year. The plan includes redeploying the National Guard (the Obama deployment lasted only a few months); more Border Patrol; more money for prosecutions and deportations; reimbursing localities for immigration enforcement expenses; interoperable communications and other technologies; double layer fencing in some areas; and more Border Patrol stations. The total cost: $350 million.

While the McCain-Kyl plan is helpful to securing Arizona's border (even if it fails to include a Common Operating Picture for agents as being provided under the Secure Border Initiative), no plan will make an iota of difference if Border Patrol agents are being told not to do their job. At the very foundation of all border security are policies in Washington is that support, encourage, and make safer the process of apprehensions, which helps support deterrence. If policies exist that are aimed at assuring agents do not do their job, then no matter how much money or infrastructure exists the country will basically have any empty fort waiting to be overrun by terrorists and drug and alien smugglers who know that if they try hard enough, they can get here successfully.

For a detailed approach to border security, see the 2010 National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers' "Proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Enforcement and Reform" for a nine-step plan to assuring border security. The plan has credibility in part because it is drafted by those who have worked on the border, and know the inherent difficulties in securing it. All hard-thought ideas are welcome and in fact, could be helpful in a different political environment than we have currently. Just ask Sheriffs Dever and Babeu.