Citing frustration, leader of Border Patrol union quits

By Sara A. Carter
The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (CA), April 19, 2005
The president of the largest union representing Border Patrol agents has resigned, citing the organization’s failing bureaucracy and lack of support from the Bush administration.
Joseph Dassaro, who since 2000 has been president of the National Border Patrol Council’s Local 1613, which represents nearly 2,500 agents in the San Diego sector, sent out a farewell letter Monday morning.
Dassaro, who has been a Border Patrol agent for 13 years, will leave the agency by May 1 as part of his resignation agreement. Chris Bauder, a border agent and friend of Dassaro’s, will take over as president of Local 1613.
Dassaro’s letter cited frustration among border agents and a draconian Border Patrol system with little hope of reform as two of the reasons for his departure.
“My worst fear is that they are going to turn Border Patrol agents into what is analogous to a 7-Eleven security guard,’ Dassaro said from his home in San Diego. ‘The time for niceties is over. The time for blunt talk is now.”
Dassaro said he was directing his statements at an administration set on dismantling the Border Patrol. The final straw came last week when the Department of Homeland Security terminated the 35-day detail limit on agents, Dassaro said.
The limit stopped the department from working agents longer than 35 days on assignment away from home, he said. The original agreement also stopped agents from being transferred to different sectors on a moment’s notice, he said.
“It’s easy to overlook the agents who are out there working,” Dassaro said. “Nobody ever puts a face to the agency. The government is completely denigrating their job positions. Eventually, many agents will leave the Border Patrol.”
In a letter to T.J. Bonner, President of the National Border Patrol Council, another agents’ union, Sheila H. Brown, director of the labor relations division of the Department of Homeland Security, said the department’s decision to terminate the 35- day limit was non-negotiable and based on homeland security issues.
Dassaro argued that the new policy abuses employees’ rights and in his farewell letter wrote, “I watched the Border Patrol mature into something it should not be: one of the most inefficient and misleading agencies in the history of government.”
He said he will continue to advocate for Border Patrol agents. He has agreed to join Friends of the Border Patrol, a civilian organization in Chino supporting border agents, as a consultant. Dassaro also has offered his services to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Andy Ramirez, executive director of Friends of the Border Patrol, said he is happy to have Dassaro consulting for his group, but Dassaro’s resignation did not surprise him.
“It saddens me and it enrages me,” Ramirez said. “This is somebody with 13 years of training. You can’t replace that.”