BP Agents Told to Stop Making Illegal Immigrant Arrests
A United States border patrol agent catches an illegal immigrant crossing from Mexico to the U.S. in San Ysidro, California, April 13, 2011. [AP]
April 27, 2011
COCHISE COUNTY, AZ – An Arizona sheriff says U.S. Border Patrol officials have repeatedly told him they have been ordered to reduce — at times even stop — arrests of illegal immigrants caught trying to cross the U.S. border.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever stated that a supervisor with the U.S. Border Patrol told him as recently as this month that the federal agency’s office on Arizona’s southern border was under orders to keep apprehension numbers down during specific reporting time periods.
“The senior supervisor agent is telling me about how their mission is now to scare people back,” Dever said in an intervie. “He said, ‘I had to go back to my guys and tell them not to catch anybody, that their job is to chase people away. … They were not to catch anyone, arrest anyone. Their job was to set up posture, to intimidate people, to get them to go back.”
Dever said his recent conversation with the Border Patrol supervisor was the latest in a series of communications on the subject that he has had with various federal agents over the last two years. Dever said he plans to relay the substance of these conversations when he testifies under oath next month before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
“I will raise my hand to tell the truth and swear to God, and nothing is more serious or important than that,” he said. “I’m going to tell them that, here’s what I hear and see every day: I had conversation with agent A, B, C, D and this is what they told me.”
Dever’s charges were vigorously denied by a commander with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“The claim that Border Patrol supervisors have been instructed to underreport or manipulate our statistics is unequivocally false,” Jeffery Self, commander of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Joint Field Command in Arizona, said in a written statement.
“I took an oath that I take very seriously, and I find it insulting that anyone, especially a fellow law enforcement officer, would imply that we would put the protection of the American public and security of our nation’s borders in danger just for a numbers game," he said. "Our mission does not waiver based on political climate, and it never will. To suggest that we are ambiguous in enforcing our laws belittles the work of more than 6,000 CBP employees in Arizona who dedicate their lives to protect our borders every day.”
In recent days, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said the U.S.-Mexican border is more secure than ever, and Homeland Security officials have used recent statistics to support those claims.
“There is a perception that the border is worse now than it ever has been,” Napolitano said at the El Paso border crossing last week. “That is wrong. The border is better now than it ever has been.”
Dever doesn’t agree.
“Janet Napolitano says the border is more secure than it’s ever been. I’ve been here for 60 years, and I’m telling you that’s not true,” he said.
The sheriff of Santa Cruz County, which borders Dever’s Cochise County to the west, said, “This is news to me,” when asked about reports that border agents were being told to turn illegal immigrants back to Mexico rather than arrest them.
“It comes as a complete surprise that that would be something that’s going around,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said. “I meet with Dever all the time and I have great respect for him, so I expect he’d come forward and say what he knows and give the source.
“Not knowing who the source is, how reliable that source is, I really don’t have much of a position,” Estrada said. “I’ve been around a real long time and haven’t heard anything like this. By the same token, you learn new things every day.”