Border Patrol agents fear coming retribution
A new policy close to adoption by the Department of Homeland Security will effectively muzzle any dissent within the U.S. Border Patrol by making agents fear for their jobs if they speak to the media, said local and national union officials Friday.
Agent Ron Zermeno, a union official at the Border Patrol's Temecula office, was the one who informed local media last month that some controversial immigrant sweeps had been stopped by officials in Washington, D.C., triggering a public outcry and a "town hall" meeting that drew nationwide attention.
Zermeno's candor resulted in management threatening to fire him, he said Friday. Once the new rules go into effect, it would be easier for management to do so, and he will not be so forthcoming with the press, he said...
A final decision on the proposed policy changes is pending. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is slated to meet with union officials one last time, on Friday [presumably 9/10/04 --LW], and the new policy should take effect in mid-October, department spokesman Orluskie said.
[Richard Pierce, executive vice president for the agents' union, the National Border Patrol Council] said it's a near certainty that the changes allowing the agency to muzzle agents will be part of the new agreement. The only hope of preventing that from happening lies with the people, Pierce added.
"People should be notifying their elected representatives and saying this isn't right ---- this is America," he said.