The Washington Times
By Jerry Seper
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published May 13, 2005
U.S. Border Patrol agents have been ordered not to arrest illegal aliens along
the section of the Arizona border where protesters patrolled last month because
an increase in apprehensions there would prove the effectiveness of Minuteman
volunteers, The Washington Times has learned.
More than a dozen agents, all of whom asked not to be
identified for fear of retribution, said orders relayed by Border Patrol
supervisors at the Naco, Ariz., station made it clear that arrests were
"not to go up" along the 23-mile section of border that the volunteers
monitored to protest illegal immigration.
"It was clear to everyone here what was being said
and why," said one veteran agent. "The apprehensions were not to
increase after the Minuteman volunteers left. It was as simple as that."
Another agent said the Naco supervisors "were clear
in their intention" to keep new arrests to an "absolute minimum"
to offset the effect of the Minuteman vigil, adding that patrols along the
border have been severely limited.
Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar at the agency's
Washington headquarters called the accusations "outright wrong,"
saying that supervisors at the Naco station had not blocked agents from making
arrests and that the station's 350 agents were being "supported in carrying
out" their duties.
"Border Patrol agents are the front line of defense
against terrorism," Chief Aguilar said, adding that the 11,000 agents
nationwide are "meeting that challenge, head-on ... as daunting a task as
that may sound."
The chief -- a former head of the agency's Tucson
sector, which includes the Naco station -- said that with the world watching the
Arizona border because of the Minuteman Project, agents in Naco
"demonstrated flexibility and resilience in carrying out their critical
homeland security duties and responsibilities."
But Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, yesterday
said "credible sources" within the Border Patrol also had told him of
the decision by Naco supervisors to keep new arrests to a minimum, saying he was
angry but not surprised.
"It's like telling a cop to stand by and watch
burglars loot a store but don't arrest any of them," he said. "This is
another example of decisions being made at the highest levels of the Border
Patrol that are hurting morale and helping to rot the agency from within.
"I worry about our efforts in Congress to increase
the number of agents," he said. "Based on these kinds of orders, we
could spend the equivalent of the national debt and never have secure
Mr. Tancredo, chairman of the Congressional Immigration
Reform Caucus, blamed the Bush administration for setting an immigration
enforcement tone that suggests to those enforcing the law that he is not serious
about secure borders.
"We need to get the president to come to grips with
the seriousness of the problem," he said. "I know he doesn't like to
utter the words, 'I was wrong,' but if we have another incident like September
11 by people who came through our borders without permission, I hope he doesn't
have to say 'I'm sorry.' "
During the Minuteman vigil, Border Patrol supervisors in
Arizona discounted their efforts, saying a drop in apprehensions during their
protest was because of the Mexican government's deployment of military and
police south of the targeted area and a new federal program known as the Arizona
Border Control Initiative that brought manpower increases to the state.
The Naco supervisors blamed the volunteers for
unnecessarily tripping sensors, disturbing draglines and interfering with the
normal operations of the agents. They said that their impact on illegals was
"negligible" and that civilians should leave immigration enforcement
"to the professionals."
Several field agents credited the volunteers with
cutting the flow of illegal aliens in the targeted Naco area, saying the number
of apprehended illegals dropped from an average of 500 a day to less than 15 a
More than 850 volunteers, in a protest of the lax
immigration enforcement policies of the White House and Congress, sought to
reduce the flow of illegal aliens along a popular immigration corridor on the
Arizona-Mexico border near Naco by reporting illegals to the Border Patrol as
they crossed into the United States.
Their goal was to show that increased manpower on the
border would effectively deter illegal immigration. Organizers said the protest
resulted in Border Patrol arrests of 349 illegal aliens.
Area residents, in a half-page ad in the Sunday edition
of the Sierra Vista Herald, told the volunteers: "Thanks for doing what our
government won't -- close the border to illegal aliens. It was the quietest
month we've had in many years ... You made us feel safe because the border was