'Amnesty by Any Means' Extended to Border Patrol

By Janice Kephart, November 4, 2011

In yet another move aimed to handcuff the effectiveness of Border Patrol agents, orders have been sent out from Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, D.C. to Border Patrol sectors nationwide that checks of transportation hubs and systems located away from the southwest border of the United States will only be conducted if there is intelligence indicating a threat.

By decreasing apprehensions, Border Patrol management and the Administration can make false claims regarding the security of our borders. Further, the lack of apprehensions makes it easier for the Administration to promote some form of amnesty.

– National Border Patrol Council press release, October 27, 2011

Border Patrol agents have now joined Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in openly criticizing their leadership for preventing them from doing the job necessary to secure the 6,000 miles of U.S. land border. In an October 27, 2011, press release issued by the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing the agents, the union called the directive to refuse to permit random checks at transportation hubs (bus stations and the like) within 100 miles of the northern border "yet another move aimed to handcuff the effectiveness of Border Patrol agents."

In the press release the union's vice president, Shawn Moran, said this: "Stated plainly, Border Patrol managers are increasing the layers of bureaucracy and making it as difficult as possible for Border Patrol agents to conduct their core duties. The only risk being managed by this move are too many apprehensions, negative media attention and complaints generated by immigrant rights groups."

The policy to bring about a de facto administrative amnesty now includes not only making sure that those already illegally in the U.S. (except for terrorists and violent criminals) get a green light to stay, but also invites other foreign nationals to enter illegally between ports of entry, enabling them to move onto transportation hubs where they can quickly melt into communities anywhere in the nation with significantly less likelihood of apprehension. While numbers for transportation hub apprehension were not made public by southwest Border Patrol sectors, those on the east and west side of the northern border indicate that one-third to one-half of their illegal entry apprehensions are at transportation hubs. Considering the higher volume of illegal entry on the southwest border, that percentage is likely lower. However, "hub" checks are significant in that they are the last opportunity for Border Patrol agents to apprehend and remove an illegal before disappearance into the interior where ICE has already been given a directive not to pursue illegal aliens except for, again, terrorists and violent criminals.

Discouraging illegal immigration with what is termed by the Obama administration a "risk-based" and "actionable intelligence" approach made little sense even with ICE, which has relatively scarce resources but heavy in immigration law enforcement responsibilities. Federal law is law and the Obama administration made clear they are directing agents not to enforce it unless provided approval by Washington. Add to that, suing states that are trying to support federal immigration enforcement while letting off the hook cities providing sanctuary for illegal aliens.

Yet a "risk-based" approach applied to the resource-rich Border Patrol makes even less sense. A prohibition on random checks of suspicious individuals the Border Patrol believe may have illegally entered the U.S. – the same type of random checks that Americans submit to at airports, with whole-body imaging technology to boot – is simply another way to tell the Border Patrol to not do their job. This is especially true on the northern border where hub checks are a key element of patrol duties. With transparent, nonsensical excuses, the only real conclusion can be that amnesty policies are now being applied at the border, not just our interior. This is no longer a policy developed to simply deal with the millions of illegals here; it is now about making sure more illegals come in.

Standard operating procedures for Border Patrol agents, especially on the border with Canada, have for years focused on commercial transportation checks – train stations, airports, and bus terminals situated within 100 miles of the border. Such checks were essential to streamline operations where scant resources, difficult terrain, and weather often make physical patrol of 4,000 miles of land border extremely difficult. That was especially the case when there were only 300-plus Border Patrol agents on the northern border on 9/11. Now, there are about 2,200, with numbers for the Border Patrol overall doubling since 9/11. Operating out of a transportation hub still makes a lot of sense if you are an agent trying to curb illegal entry.

This "don't do your job" policy began a year and a half ago when ICE agents began to receive verbal instructions to release illegal aliens from detention facilities, not to respond to local law enforcement calls pertaining to known illegals picked up for other crimes, and receiving instructions to drop charges or not proceed with charges in pending or potential immigration court cases. The agents objected, and the ICE union representing agents issued a vote of No Confidence in their director, John Morton, and other senior ICE leadership conceiving and implementing the instructions. Then in July 2011, Morton issued, again quietly, the now infamous "prosecutorial discretion" memo, its evolution described in detail in my October 2011 Memorandum "Amnesty by Any Means".

For those concerned about how this affects the agents and the transportation hubs that have come to rely on the security element that Border Patrol has supplied, two news stories explain in detail. According to a TV news story evolving out of Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the new policy is playing out like this:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A group of former Border Patrol agents say routine checks at commercial transportation hubs are changing. This means the daily presence of Border Patrol agents at bus stations, train stations and airports is over.

The Border Patrol branch in McAllen says they can't disclose policy because of its sensitive nature. They directed us straight to Washington.

An empty patch of pavement represents the spot where Border Patrol agents usually stand on guard at the McAllen bus station. There were no agents to be found Tuesday.

"Well, I think they should be here checking the people and stuff," says traveler Beatriz Quintanilla.

And on the northern border, an AP story out of Seattle reads in part as follows:

Halting the practice has baffled the agents, especially in some stations along the northern border — from Bellingham, Wash., to Houlton, Maine — where the so-called "transportation checks" have been the bulk of their everyday duties. The Border Patrol is authorized to check vehicles within 100 miles of the border.

The order has not been made public, but two agents described it to the AP on condition of because the government does not authorize them to speak to the media. The union that represents Border Patrol agents planned to issue a news release about the change Monday.

Those who have received the orders said agents may still go to train and bus stations and airports if they have specific "actionable intelligence" that there is an illegal immigrant there who recently entered the country. An agent in Washington state said it's not clear how agents are supposed to glean such intelligence, and even if they did, under the new directive they still require clearance from Washington, D.C., headquarters before they can respond. . . .

But of 673 arrests in the [Blaine] sector, roughly 200 were from routine transportation checks, according to a Washington state-based Border Patrol agent who has been with the agency for more than 20 years and spoke to the AP.

Until receiving the new directive, the Bellingham office, about 25 miles from the Canadian border, kept agents at the bus and train station, and at the local airport 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, the agents have little work to do, the agent said.

The situation is similar in upstate New York, where an agent told the AP – also on the condition of anonymity – that a senior manager relayed the new directive during a morning roll call last month. Since then, instead of checking buses or trains, agents have spent shifts sitting in their vehicles gazing out at Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where few illegal immigrants cross. [emphasis added]

"They're already bored," the agent said. "You grab the paper every day and you go do the crossword."
In the Buffalo sector, where there were more than 2,400 arrests in fiscal 2010, as many as half were from routine transportation checks, the agent estimated.

The change was immediately obvious to Jack Barker, who manages the Greyhound and Trailways bus station in Rochester, N.Y. For the past six years, he said, Border Patrol agents boarded nearly every bus in and out of the station looking for illegal immigrants. Last month — one day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and all of the hype that surrounded it — the agents stopped coming. They haven't been back since, Barker said.

"What's changed that they're no longer needed here?" Barker asked. "I haven't been able to get an answer from anybody."

Kent Lundgren, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, said the transportation checks have been a staple of the agency for 60 years. His organization has heard from agents around the country complaining of the change, he said.

Gene Davis, a retired deputy chief in the Border Patrol's sector in Blaine, Wash., emphasized how effective the checks can be. He noted that a check of the Bellingham bus station in 1997 yielded an arrest of Palestinian Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. Abu Mezer skipped out on a $5,000 bond — only to turn up later in Brooklyn, where New York police shot him as he prepared to bomb the city's subway system. Davis also noted that would-be millennium bomb suspect Ahmed Ressam was arrested at the border in late 1999 when he left a ferry from British Columbia to Washington in a rented car full of explosives.

"We've had two terrorists who have come through the northern border here. To put these restraints on agents being able to talk to people is just ridiculous," Davis said. "Abu Mezer got out, but that just shows you the potential that's there with the transportation checks."

The Border Patrol informed officials at the Bellingham airport (45 miles from Vancouver, Canada) on Thursday that from now on they would only be allowed to come to the airport "if there's an action that needs their assistance," said airport manager Daniel Zenk.

"I'm shocked," Zenk said. "We welcome the security presence the Border Patrol provides."

In some ways, none of this is surprising. ICE already had gotten the orders, first verbally, then in writing in June 2011. It was only a matter of time before the complaints we heard from Arizona sheriffs in April 2011 that Border Patrol agents in their sectors were being told to not apprehend, but to "scare back" illegals across the southern border, would become written policy in some form. At the time, the administration was considering an "acceptable levels of illegal immigration" policy.

On the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, CBP's new second in command, Mark Borkowski, unveiled the politically correct version of the no-apprehension policy: a new – and undefined – "reasonable control" policy (see p. 7 of my "To Do List" Backgrounder) would replace the standard operating policy in effect previously, that of "operational control." Borkowski explained that Border Patrol current activity is sufficient to deal with the reduced flows of those now crossing illegally. No mention of the threat from Mexico's cartels or likely increasing terrorist presence in northern Mexico being a national security brewing emergency. No adjustment either, after it has been made clear that Mexican drug cartels are approachable by Iran for terrorist acts in the U.S.

In that context of prior directives, the transportation hub directive was also issued on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. The immigration policy all lines up nicely: amnesty before security. The president has put our immigration enforcement apparatus in a Washington, D.C.-style "Bill Nelson" hold. It may take an election to get ICE and the Border Patrol out of it. Let's hope our public safety, economic and national security, don't pay a huge price before the "sit on your arse and don't do a thing" policy makes us a nation of sitting ducks.