Nation's Border Agents Have No Confidence in Chief

By Fred Lucas | July 7, 2008 | 8:23pm EDT

( - Fed up with what they see as poor management and a lack of support for those on the frontline, U.S. Border Patrol agents Monday announced a lack of confidence in their leadership.

Amid rallies in Washington D.C. focusing on illegal immigration, leaders of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) - the union representing the country's 11,000 non-supervisory border agents - announced it had cast a unanimous no-confidence vote in U.S. Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar.

The 100-0 vote stemmed from complaints that field agents lack support from the top, a situation they say is exemplified by the case of two agents in Texas, jailed after shooting a Mexican trying to bring drugs into the country.

The resolution cited the chief's willingness to believe what it called the "perjured allegations" of criminal aliens over his own agents.

"All these are working agents," NBPC President T.J. Bonner told Cybercast News Service, speaking of the 100 union leaders that voted. "They've been out there talking to agents in the field. This vote is born of extreme frustration. The only surprise is that it took this long to boil to the surface."

Earlier this year, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean began prison terms of more than a decade each for shooting Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican national who was trying to smuggle drugs across the border. Prosecutors gave Aldrete-Davila immunity to return to the United States and testify against the border agents.

"When it's a crime to defend yourself against an armed drug smuggler, you have to wonder what the country has become," Bonner said. It was a point of contention at the trial on whether Aldrete-Davila was armed.

The prosecution, conviction and jailing of the agents upset many conservatives, and critical members of Congress have attacked the Bush administration repeatedly over the affair.

The administration has defended the actions of the federal prosecutor, who for his part argued that the agents not only shot an unarmed man while he was fleeing toward the Mexican border, but also tried to cover up the crime by disposing of their shell casings and not reporting the incident to their supervisor.

Though Aguilar was never vocal on either side of the border agents case, Bonner said most agents were unhappy that he had not spoken up for the agents and saw it as part of a pattern.

The union released the result of the vote on Monday to coincide with the "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" event in Washington, sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The four-day event, which began on Sunday, included 35 radio hosts broadcasting their programs from the nation's capital. FAIR and the radio hosts are demanding stricter border enforcement; a crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants; and an end to non-emergency benefits and services for illegal immigrants.

Aguilar was named Border Patrol chief in the summer of 2004. A Border Patrol agent for nearly three decades, he is a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The Border Patrol did not return multiple phone calls Monday, and the Department of Homeland Security - the overarching body - said queries would have to be addressed to the Border Patrol.

The union has never taken such a measure against its chief administrator before, Bonner said.

"We fully recognize the vote will not result in his removal," Bonner said. "This administration would probably promote the guy if they got a chance. This is to express the frustration that has overtaken the Border Patrol.

"This manager - I can't call him a leader, because he won't stand up for the men and women in the field - just goes along to get along with the administration," he charged.

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