Editor’s Note: FedSmith.com occasionally publishes articles from readers on topics of interest to the federal community. The following opinion piece was submitted by a reader on a topic of interest to federal employees and retirees.
In a recent interview on Lou Dobbs’ CNN show, National Border Patrol Council president T.J. Bonner made the following comment regarding Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar:
“We [presumably the union] want leaders, not bobble head dolls who nod their assent to whatever the Administration tells them to do.”
Accordingly, he announced, the National Border Patrol Council had rendered a purportedly unanimous vote of “No confidence” in the Chief.
It had done so, he explained, because the union is miffed at Aguilar for a) not opposing the Administration on its position regarding immigration amnesty, and b) for his failure to do something [unspecified as to what] regarding the recent incarceration of two Border Patrol agents, who were convicted of in federal court of shooting an unarmed drug dealer, and then attempting to cover it up.
Someone needs to send this guy a copy of the organization chart. If he turns it right side up, he will notice that at the top of the pyramid one finds the President. Several layers down in the Executive Branch he will see the spot occupied by Chief Aguilar, a federal employee who works for that same federal government.
Next to the Executive Branch, of course, are the Legislative and Judicial branches—neither of which are under Chief Aguilar’s control either.
This should provide the clues necessary to educate Mr. Bonner on several salient points, including the following:
1. The Border Patrol Chief works for the President of the United States, not the other way around. Accordingly, it is his job to carry out policies, not to make them. Nor does he get to decide which policies he will implement, or to condition his compliance on whether he likes or agrees with them.
2. The Border Patrol Chief is not in charge of either the Department of Justice, or the Judicial Branch. Consequently, the determination of whether to charge a federal employee with a crime, or whether to carry out the prosecution, conviction and incarceration of a federal employee for the commission of a crime, does not rest with the Chief either.
3. Below the Border Patrol Chief position resides the position of Border Patrol Agent—several thousand of whom are privileged to have Mr. Bonner as their spokesperson. They work at the direction, ultimately, of the Chief of the Border Patrol who, as noted above, is charged with carrying out the policies directed by the President and Congress of the United States.
4. If the Chief disagrees with an Administration policy so vehemently as to be unable to comply with it, the accepted course of action is to resign his position—not to ignore the policy or to resist its application while continuing to collect his federal paycheck.
Nowhere on the organization chart will Mr. Bonner see the National Border Patrol Council. Which pretty much sums up its role in determining national policy on immigration—or anything else, for that matter.
Related points that Mr. Bonner might wish to consider before sharing further policy critiques on the nightly news would include the following:
1. Only in what was previously called—in politically incorrect days of yore—a banana republic, would it be considered a good idea to have a government official who heads up an armed force larger than the armies of 95% of the countries on this planet, use his official position to a) publicly defy the elected President of the country on a key policy matter, or b) publicly criticize the courts and a duly constituted jury for daring to convict one or more of his troopers for the commission of a federal crime.
2. Chief Aguilar is a federal official, serving in a position to which he was appointed in accordance with the established procedures for filling such jobs. He was not elected to the position—certainly not by the Border Patrol union—and serves at the pleasure of the President, not the union. Accordingly, a vote of no confidence, some confidence, or lots of confidence by the union is about as meaningless as those “unanimous” votes held every few years in the old Soviet Union.
3. As a federal employee himself—albeit one who has functioned as a full-time union official, rather than as an actual Border Patrol Agent, for the past couple decades—it is utterly inappropriate for Mr. Bonner to be publicly opposing government policies he is still sworn to uphold, or to publicly refer to the head of the organization employing him as a “bobble head doll.”
4. Under federal labor relations law, unions—including Mr. Bonner’s—are authorized to negotiate “conditions of employment” applicable to the employees they represent—not to determine national immigration policies, or to select, through union “confidence” votes or otherwise, agency officials whose views, in their opinion, sufficiently match their own.
If the now-extinct INS failed to make this sort of thing clear to Mr. Bonner, small wonder it was broken into pieces and scattered to the federal winds.
Unless DHS is of a mind to make the same mistake, now would be a good time for the Border Patrol union to consider a return to planet earth, and once there to focus on the job it was actually elected to perform.