Exclusive: Few Rogue Border Agents Resist Trump Policies
Union leader says some stations continue to follow Obama 'catch and release' directives
Some border patrol stations have been slow to carry out President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement executive order and instead have continued former President Barack Obama’s “catch-and-release” policies, according to a union official.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told LifeZette that he raised concerns Thursday with U.S. Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello. He said he is confident that issue soon will be corrected.
“We’re still walking people out the door. The catch-and-release policy is still in place in some sectors.”
But Judd said as recently as Thursday, some border patrol stations were still releasing border-jumpers, often without even issuing notices to appear in immigration court hearings. Obama’s policy was to release anyone claiming to have been living continuously in the United States since before Jan. 1, 2014, if they did not have criminal records or active warrants.
“We’re still walking people out the door,” Judd said. “The catch-and-release policy is still in place in some sectors.”
Judd said it was a minority of sectors that have been resisting Trump’s new directives. He laid the blame at the feet of U.S. Border Patrol managers, not front-line officers.
“This is not the administration’s fault. This is Border Patrol’s fault,” he said. “It varies from sector to sector. Some sectors still are operating under the Obama administration’s policies. And that’s troubling … It’s just been very willy-nilly.”
Asked about the status of Trump’s marching orders, Customs and Border Protection spokesman Carlos Diaz wrote in an email to LifeZette, “CBP has worked towards implementing the measures mandated by the Executive Orders since they were signed.”
Judd said some managers have been waiting for specific written guidelines to filter down from the Department of Homeland Security. He said he considers that unnecessary since the president’s executive order is crystal clear. He said anyone apprehended by border patrol agents should be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities. That agency and immigration judges are charged with deciding whether someone should be deported.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said she was not aware that the president’s executive order had not been fully implemented three weeks after he issued it.
“It actually surprises me. But if that’s the case, certainly the administration is going to need to look into that if they’re going to be undermined,” she said. “That’s got to be nipped in the bud.”
Vaughan, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, said it often takes time for new policies to be fully embraced. This especially is true during the transition from one administration to the next, she said, because the outgoing administration often has promoted managers who agree with its policy goals.
She noted that Obama, himself, faced bumps in the road on the way to implementing enforcement directives mandating a lighter hand. She said union officials enforced the letter of their collective bargaining agreement requiring training before new policies are adopted.
“It’s not unusual for people who are in disagreement with change to dig in their heels and take a stand,” she said. “I certainly saw that at the State Department where implementation of law and policies could differ based on the views of different managers and different posts.”
Joseph Guzzardi, a spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization, said it was disappointing that some border patrol officials appear not be onboard with the new policies.
"It would be surprising to me because Border Patrol has been hugely in support of Trump when he ran," he said. "I have been down to the border and talked to Border Patrol agents and got the clear impression that they were eager to enforce immigration law."
Judd said he expects a "compete change" after his conversation with Vitiello but added that the policies already should be fully implemented.
"It should not have had to be me who informed him," he said.