Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Border Patrol

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Border Patrol Budget

While U.S. Border Patrol brass enjoys a “leadership meeting” in the Caribbean this week, frontline agents remain strapped with a dangerous shortage of manpower, funding and lack of crucial weapons and equipment training that makes it impossible to adequately secure the Mexican border. Judicial Watch spent time on the Arizona-Mexican border recently and interviewed agents on the ground who are fuming that the Trump administration has done nothing to provide them with the necessary tools to secure the dangerously porous southern border. The agents say management claims there’s no budget to send them to essential trainings, yet there’s money to dispatch sector chiefs on a beach getaway.

Furthermore, the administration’s newly appointed Border Patrol chief, Ronald Vitiello, was a deputy chief at the agency under Barack Obama and was the original implementer of the outrageous “catch and release” policy. Thousands of illegal immigrants—some violent criminals—have been released under the initiative, which is the single biggest factor driving illegal immigration, according to congressional testimony delivered by National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd last year.

“If you are an unaccompanied minor, we will not only release you, but will escort you to your final destination,” Judd testified. “If you are a family unit, we will release you. If you claim credible fear, we will release you. If you are a single male and we do not physically see you cross the border and you claim that you have been in this country since 2014, we will release you.”

Incredibly, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly chose the mastermind behind the disastrous catch and release policy to head the Border Patrol. While outmanned frontline agents tell Judicial Watch they are overwhelmed with drug cartels, arms smugglers, terrorists and illegal immigrants, their boss will be thousands of miles away enjoying sun and fun in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Officially, it’s called the U.S. Border Patrol Chiefs Quarterly Leadership Meeting and in past years it’s been held closer to the action in locations near the southern border such as Tucson, Arizona and San Diego, California.

A minimum of all 20 chief patrol agents and at least six managers from headquarters are participating in the powwow, which will address a “path forward” and offer a “wall update” as well as a “Caribbean update.” The two-day event kicks off today with an introduction from Border Patrol Chief Vitiello. “Instead of BP management meeting in El Paso, Douglas, Nogales or even Tucson where drugs, guns, illegals, cartels and terrorists pose a real threat, they jet off to Puerto Rico for days on the beach,” one agent said during Judicial Watch’s recent border tour.

Another front-line federal official told Judicial Watch that Border Patrol officers in the region’s most dangerous stretches are unable to utilize equipment such as quad-runners due lack of training, supposedly because there aren’t enough funds to conduct the courses. Additionally, travel budget shortages are keeping firearms instructors from staying current on their certification because they can’t be deployed to the locations where the courses are held.

Besides the training obstacles for existing agents, there’s a huge shortage of manpower along the Mexican border, the frontline officers stress. “They might not find many useful strategies from the rank-and-file on the border but they’re sure to get a great tan on the beach,” said one frustrated official. Another called it “shameful” and one demoralized law enforcement veteran used lyrics from the famous rock n’ roll band, the Who, to take a jab at the Trump administration: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

The National Border Patrol Council, which represents 16,500 agents nationwide, endorsed Donald Trump for president and Trump has promised to hire thousands of new agents. However, promoting a top Obama administration official to head the agency, has created concern among agents that the new commander-in-chief isn’t doing enough to “drain the swamp.”

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The U.S. Border Patrol alters statistics involving the apprehension of criminal illegal immigrants to conceal that thousands are being released, a new federal audit reveals. The frontline Homeland Security agency charged with preventing terrorists and weapons—including those of mass destruction—from entering the country also skews figures to drastically deflate the high recidivism rate of aliens caught entering the U.S.

The distressing details of this crucial agency’s crafty record-keeping practices are outlined in a scathing report issued this month by the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The probe focuses on a Border Patrol system developed to address a smuggling crisis along the southwest border. It’s officially known as Consequence Delivery System (CDS) and is used to identify the most effective and efficient consequences to deter illegal cross border activity in each of the agency’s sectors. For the system to work, the Border Patrol must report accurate information involving illegal aliens who are apprehended.

Instead, it appears that federal agents on the ground are being ordered to fudge the numbers as part of a broader Obama administration effort to protect illegal immigrants and falsely portray the Mexican border as safe. The GAO report suggests that Border Patrol headquarters directed agents to misclassify criminal illegal aliens, presumably to hide the fact that they were being released instead of prosecuted. Officials interviewed as part of the probe “said that agents received oral direction from headquarters to reclassify criminal aliens who cannot be given a consequence of federal prosecution, and that written data integrity guidance to sectors did not include activities for checking the accuracy of alien classifications,” the GAO report states.

The misclassification of apprehended illegal immigrants resulted in nearly 4,000 criminal aliens being returned to their home country rather than prosecuted between 2013 and 2015, the GAO found. After analyzing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data, congressional investigators determined that an astounding 94% (109,080) of the 116,409 aliens given a consequence of warrant or notice to appear still had an open case and “may remain in the United States.” Thousands more escaped criminal prosecution because they were not properly classified. “Specifically, of the approximate 15,000 apprehensions of criminal aliens who were not classified according to CDS guidance between fiscal years 2013 and 2015, 8 percent were recommended for criminal prosecution (3,912 apprehensions) compared to 47 percent of all criminal aliens during that timeframe,” the GAO writes.

In some cases, Department of Justice (DOJ) restrictions limit the number of illegal aliens that can be referred for prosecution, the report says. This leaves agents in a bind and hesitant to apply consequences that require referral to federal partners. Here’s an example: “Rio Grande Valley sector officials said that while agents apprehended over 129,000 aliens in fiscal year 2015, the sector can only refer about 40 immigration-related cases each day to the corresponding USAO District (Southern District of Texas) for prosecution. Once this daily limit is reached, agents must apply an alternative consequence that is not the Most Effective and Efficient as defined by the CDS guide.”

Recidivism numbers are kept down by using an unscrupulous system that only classifies an apprehended illegal alien as recidivist if he or she had been previously caught within a fiscal year. The system doesn’t account for immigrants with no record of removal after apprehension and who may have remained in the United States without the opportunity to recidivate. The Border Patrol guidance also states that a first-time apprehension classification may be used on an alien that has been apprehended by another agency. Congressional investigators determined that the Border Patrol system slashed recidivism numbers in half. In one outrageous case cited in the report an “alien apprehended 54 times in the Rio Grande Valley sector between October 2012 and May 2015 was classified as a First Time Apprehension 6 times.”

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border security

Last month, two men were caught on video climbing over the border wall with Mexico and into the United States, carrying with them two large back packs apparently loaded with illegal drugs. The climbers, who were also caught on government surveillance approaching the wall in Mexico before even setting foot on it, easily scaled down into the U.S. within a few yards of not one, but three U.S. Border Patrol vehicles. The Border Patrol officers, although clearly aware of the illegal fence climbers, did nothing. The men re-scaled the wall back into Mexico only after realizing a media crew was filming their escapade.

Such events appear to be “business as usual” at America’s southern border; reflecting a “hands-off” mentality by federal border agents that dramatically undercuts the federal government’s avowed commitment to stop illegal border crossings. It also lays bare the argument that building a wall along our border with Mexico “secures” the border. Clearly it doesn’t; and it will not until Uncle Sam develops the will to stop illegal border crossings.

The ineptitude on display last month brings to mind another botched “border control” operation by this Administration a few years ago — “Operation Fast and Furious” — in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, intentionally allowed firearms to be purchased by known Mexican drug members in the U.S., and then shipped back to Mexico where, in theory, they would be tracked. Due to reasons that can only be attributed — charitably — to bureaucratic incompetence, the guns disappeared; that is, until one showed up at the scene where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot to death.

Tragedies such as Operation Fast and Furious, as well as the Border Patrol’s passive attitude towards stopping flagrant criminal activity, illustrates a problem rooted far deeper than the prima facie absurdity of Obama Administration policies. It reflects a fundamental unwillingness by federal law enforcement agencies to do their job. The question is not are we lacking a high-enough wall, but do we lack the will.

The worsening problems at the border is perhaps the single-most important factor in the rise of Donald Trump as a competitive presidential candidate in 2016. However, though Trump may be the loudest and shrillest voice on border issues, he still, like so many other candidates and office holders, is missing the forest for the trees when it comes to illegal immigration.

Trump and those who share his views on border security focus almost exclusively on the physical aspects of the issue; higher walls, more border patrol agents, and more money. While money, equipment and personnel certainly are important elements of a comprehensive border security program, they are wasted without a true commitment on the part of officials from the President down to agency heads, to actually use those resources to do the job.

The key to “securing the border” lies not in physical security, but in policy security; and without the will to stop illegals from coming in, and until we stop fretting about the risk of “someone getting hurt if our law enforcement officers do their job,” illegals will continue to pour in regardless of the physical obstacles, barriers, and deterrents we place in their way. No number of federal agents assigned to the border, and no amount of blustering from Trump about “growing [the border fence] ten feet higher,” will make a noteworthy difference if we on this side of the wall lack the courage to stop illegals before they ever put their first foot up to climb, or as soon as they touch down on our side.

First, we have to reverse the mixed messages of the Obama Administration to Latin America regarding illegal immigration, and take a strong stand that our borders actually mean something, and that those attempting to enter the country illegally will be sent back, pronto. We must back up this message by ending the absurd “catch and release” programs that kill the morale of Border Patrol agents and continue to demonstrate that we are not serious about stopping illegal immigration. Finally, we must address the economic incentives for illegal immigration by making clear to states and cities that federal funds cannot be used to subsidize pro-illegal immigration agendas of liberal local and state governments. This means Zero Tolerance (and zero federal money) for so-called “Sanctuary Cities.”

To accomplish these things, Republicans must resist the easy route of responding to populist calls for expensive, temporary “fixes,” and focus on the much harder task of reversing Washington’s current attitude towards immigration; replacing it with one that shows we have the courage to protect our borders. In the absence of such a commitment, individuals and government leaders “South of the Border” will continue to laugh at us to our face.

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