Union’s No Confidence Vote Was ‘Sense of Duty and Devotion to this Country’

T.J. Bonner, President of the National Border Patrol Council, responds to a recent article regarding the vote of “no confidence” in the Chief of the US Border Patrol. The author states that “…the motivation for the vote of no confidence was not malice toward Chief Aguilar…but rather a sense of duty and devotion to this country….”

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and in our country, they have a right to publicly express them. Anonymous views that are based upon misinformation, however, are less than enlightening. The unsigned diatribe against the National Border Patrol Council for its vote of no confidence against Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar is a perfect example of such irrelevant drivel. (Earth to Border Patrol Council, May 11, 2007)

Initially, it must be noted that the accusation that the vote of no confidence does not represent the sentiment of those who actually work on the front lines is completely inaccurate. The overwhelming majority of the more than 100 delegates to the Union’s convention spend most of their time working in the field alongside thousands of other Border Patrol agents. Thus, they are acutely aware of the reasons behind the long-brewing dissatisfaction with policies that thwart the accomplishment of the agency’s mission and the lack of support from the bureaucrats in charge of the agency. For the record, the call for a vote of no confidence in Chief Aguilar did not originate with the Union’s leadership, but rather from the field.

The unidentified author’s criticism of the National Border Patrol Council’s vote of no confidence stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of two basic principles. First, the unnamed writer mistakenly believes that employees of the executive branch of government work for the President of the United States and are thus obligated to carry out his or her policies, regardless of how misdirected they might be. Furthermore, he or she feels that if those employees cannot bring themselves to do that, they should resign, but must never speak out against them. Second, the anonymous author is of the opinion that the role of Federal unions is limited to bargaining over conditions of employment, and they should refrain from speaking out about public policies.

Both of these notions are utterly false. With respect to the first one, it is clear that every Federal employee, along with every soldier and elected and appointed official, swears an oath of allegiance to Constitution of the United States, not to any individual, including the President. All of these people work for the American taxpayers, and are accountable to them. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy observed that “without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive.” Ten years earlier, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas expressed an even stronger view on this issue: “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un American act that could most easily defeat us.” If the founders of this Nation shared the nameless writer=s philosophy, we would still be a colony of Great Britain.

Far too many managers within the Department of Homeland Security tell employees that if they disagree with the agency’s policies, they should quit. Although an unacceptably high number of employees are heeding that advice, the American public should be thankful that most of them are sticking it out and trying their best to do their jobs in spite of the bureaucratic obstacles thrown in their path.

The second dogma espoused by the anonymous author is equally off the mark. When it enacted the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, Congress expressly found that “labor organizations and collective bargaining in the civil service are in the public interest.” It also granted employees the right to “act for a labor organization in the capacity of a representative and the right, in that capacity, to present the views of the labor organization to heads of agencies and other officials of the executive branch of the Government, the Congress, or other appropriate authorities, and to engage in collective bargaining with respect to conditions of employment through representatives chosen by employees . . .” The clandestine writer conveniently omitted the first part of that statute from his or her invective. It is evident from the full text of the legislation that Congress values the opinions of front-line employees so much that it established a mechanism for them to widely communicate their views. After all, no one is in a better position to weigh in on matters of public policy than the men and women who are charged with implementing and enforcing them.

It is important to understand that the motivation for the vote of no confidence was not malice toward Chief Aguilar or any other individual, but rather a sense of duty and devotion to this country and the enforcement of its laws. Any suggestions or implications to the contrary denigrate the dedicated men and women who constantly put their lives on the line in the service of our country. Instead of spending so much time, money and energy attempting to discredit its critics, this administration should focus on fixing the underlying problems that undermine its ability to carry out one of the most essential functions of government — protecting its citizens against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

T.J. Bonner is President of the National Border Patrol Council.