Border Patrol officer says in D.C. that agency has ‘no purpose’ on Peninsula

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

print Print This | Email This

Most Popular this week

Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.

PORT ANGELES — A U.S. Border Patrol agent said the Port Angeles station is a “black hole” where agents have “no purpose, no mission,” yet are told to work overtime to simply justify its expanding budget.

Port Angeles-based Agent Christian Sanchez told the Advisory Committee on Transparency on Friday in Washington, D.C., that agents who cover the North Olympic Peninsula are ordered to work at least 10-hour shifts even when there’s no work to do and that he has faced retaliation for speaking out against this practice.

The government watchdog group is run by the Sunlight Foundation and advises the Congressional Transparency caucus.

Additionally, Sanchez said, the agents — now numbering 40 — have little relevant work to perform and sometimes pass time by simply driving around the Olympic Peninsula, what agents call the “Baja 500.”

“During our work shifts, other agents and I always talked about how coming to work was like the black hole, swallowing us up slowly, with no purpose, no mission,” he said, according to the statement the agent read to the group.

In response to a request for comment, Border Patrol spokesman Richard Sinks said: “U.S. Customs and Border Patrol does not comment on specific cases. We take all allegations of wrongdoing seriously and fully cooperate with investigating authorities.”

Sinks declined to comment further.

The Border Patrol’s presence on the Peninsula has expanded dramatically since 2006, when it had four agents based in Port Angeles.

The agency is building a new $5.7 million station at 110 Penn St. that can house up to 50 agents. It’s expected to be complete by April.

The Government Accountability Project, another watchdog group, provided the Peninsula Daily News with a copy of Sanchez’s statement.

GAP Legal Director Tom Devine said the group recommended that Sanchez speak as a panelist at the advisory committee’s meeting, called “Making Whistleblowing Work,” after being contacted by the agent and his attorney, Paul Richmond of Port Townsend.

Richmond, who has participated in anti-Border Patrol protests in Port Angeles, could not be reached for comment.

Sanchez came to work in Port Angeles in 2009, when the station had 24 agents, according to his statement.

During the six previous years, he worked for the agency in San Diego, where he said, according to the statement, he was doing “real work” to protect the country.

“I am not able to perform my duties as a Border Patrol agent here,” Sanchez wrote. “This is a waste of taxpayer money.”

Devine said Sanchez has a “spotless record” and still works at the Port Angeles station, though he has been threatened with being fired.

The agent was told it’s for poor performance, but Devine said he believes it’s because Sanchez has been speaking out.

Sanchez also told the committee that he has been singled out for unnecessary discipline, including the removal of his chaplain status, and claimed that undercover agents conduct surveillance on his home and on him while he visits his attorney.

Sanchez said that after he refused to take overtime for doing no work, his bosses responded by suggesting he get psychological help, that days off were not allowed, temporary assignments as shift supervisor were denied and urine drug tests were ordered.

Devine said GAP hopes Sanchez’s story will encourage Congress to expand protections for government workers who speak out against waste.

“This is spending whose only purpose, in effect, is to benefit the bureaucracy,” he said.

Devine said Sanchez spoke to the staff of Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell on Friday but that there are no other plans to bring the issue to Congress.

“As far as what the future holds, time will tell,” he said. “But we’re going to keep working on this.”

George Behan, Dicks’ chief of staff, said the congressman’s office will follow up on any agency review of the allegations but is not taking a position on the matter at this time.

“It’s certainly not something we will dismiss,” he said.

Devine said Sanchez knows he faces risks by being a whistleblower, but he thinks the cause is worth it.

The agent also told the group he knows he could face additional retaliation for the statements, but added, “These crimes against the taxpayers only can occur if they are kept secret.”

________

Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 30. 2011 10:42PM
Reader Comments
Local Business
Friends to Follow

To register a complaint about a comment, email moderator@peninsuladailynews.com and refer to the article and offending comment, or click here: REPORT ABUSE.

Peninsuladailynews.com comments are subject to the Peninsuladailynews.com User Policy.

From the PDN:





All materials Copyright © 2017 Black Press Ltd./Sound Publishing Inc. • Terms of UsePrivacy PolicyAssociated Press Privacy PolicyAssociated Press Terms of UseContact Us