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.”