Are they border guards or stuffed poodles?

The department of Customs and Border Protection - part of the DHS - wants our border guards to stress the customer services aspects of their job. You'd think they would want to stress, oh, I dunno, security instead of etiquette, but I guess that wouldn't be "compassionate."

Remember, this is not an article from the Onion. The WashTimes' "Border agents put on happy face" has excerpts from a new CBP memo detailing new training sessions for border guards:

"First impressions are lasting impressions. Whether it is a traveler from a weary flight, the trade community needing an entry cleared, the importing public or simply a passer-by that may have an opportunity to observe you, the image you portray may form a lifelong view of CBP," the memo said. "It is vital that you mind your manners."

The training sessions will include instructions on etiquette, which the memo describes as "saying and doing the right thing at the right time;" grooming and body language, including posture; housekeeping and maintaining food or perishables in the workplace; and communication skills, including the use of the words "may I" and "would you please" instead of "you have to" or "give me."

The memo also said CBP officers will greet people with "welcome to the United States or welcome home," will interact with the public, trade community and others by saying, "Good morning. How may I help you?" and will bring closure to an encounter by saying, "Do you have any questions?" "It is a pleasure to serve you" and "Have a nice day."

According to the memo, CBP border officers also will exercise discretion when making decisions on whether to admit a person to the United States and that discretion will be applied on a case-by-case basis...

[The memo says] the officers must consider the situation and weigh all factors. It said, "Put yourself in the alien's shoes. Would you not want the officer to consider all flexibility within the law? Compassion goes a long ways."

There's more in the article, but the subtext is: "just wave them through. And, make sure you're smiling while you do it."

It's certainly nice when employees of the U.S. are nice. It's even better when they're nice and they protect the rest of us. But, if we have to choose, let's concentrate on the security part. The Bush administration appears to have come down on the nice side and forgotten about the security part.

See also "Border officials say they are unprepared to protect nation", "Poll Finds Low Morale for Border Officers", "Border Patrol union says new rules 'muzzle' critics of the agency", and "Why don't you let us do our jobs?".

(Via Hit & Run)

UPDATE: Someone who I believe is a CBP employee says this is all standard operating procedure, and much ado about nothing.

Note, however, that this might be a union or political thing, or it might not be. The recent survey ("Poll Finds Low Morale for Border Officers") was conducted of 250 Border Patrol agents and 250 immigration inspectors.

The WashTimes article includes this:

"We are highly trained and skilled law-enforcement professionals who carry out our duties in a professional manner," [Charles Showalter, president of the National Homeland Security Council] said. "It appears this program is an admission they are more concerned about meeting and greeting commerce and tourism than in protecting our nation's borders from terrorists, illegal aliens, criminals and others who would do us harm."


The agents and inspectors said they lack proper training, equipment and access to up-to-date databases on terrorists and criminals. They criticized the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security, with three of every five saying flawed policies keep them from making the borders safer.

The AFGE represents about two-thirds of border-patrol agents and customs inspectors. Only union members were polled by the organization, which has backed Democrat John Kerry for president.

Homeland Security officials called the poll biased and said it didn't reflect massive manpower increases and technological advances on the border...


"They want us to be meeters and greeters instead of enforcement officers," one was quoted responding to the [survey linked to above].

Note that Showalter's National Homeland Security Council is part of the AGFE union.

Based on the overwhelming evidence offered by other data points, I'm going to stick with the post's original tenor.