By Brian S. Hastings
The article “Alien arrests may bring incentives” that ran in The Buffalo News Feb. 7 questions Border Patrol operations. The story appears to be based on a report recently published by a group called the Families for Freedom.
The report, “Uncovering USBP,” alleges that the U.S. Border Patrol’s Buffalo sector has adopted a policy of rewarding agents based on the number of arrests made, and that the Border Patrol is “probably” engaging in racial profiling and has improperly arrested hundreds of people.
The premise that an arrests-based awards policy is in place is inaccurate, as are any inferences drawn from that premise. There is no arrests-based award system in the Border Patrol or any other component of Customs and Border Protection. The Border Patrol does not engage in and has not made improper arrests as alleged.
Recognition of important employee accomplishments is a best practice, well-established in private sector as well as government. The Families for Freedom report suggests that there is a link between an increase in cash awards and the number of arrests made, noting that total cash awards at Buffalo sector stations increased from 2003 to 2011.
What the report fails to mention is that the Buffalo sector staff increased by more than 300 percent during this same period. Additionally, while the total cash awards issued in the Buffalo sector have steadily increased, arrests within the Buffalo sector have actually fluctuated during that time frame.
CBP uses awards to reward employees who act above and beyond to further border security, not as an incentive to make more arrests.
The Families for Freedom group also alleges that Border Patrol has “improperly” arrested hundreds of individuals. This allegation of impropriety is false. As Border Patrol agents patrol the international border with Canada, their duties require that they verify the immigration status of the individuals they encounter. Often, Border Patrol agents encounter individuals who are not in possession of required identification documents. Agents then must verify the individuals’ immigration status through fingerprint checks and checks of various law enforcement systems before releasing them. This does not equate to an arrest.
Further, CBP does not tolerate racial profiling. Our agents and officers are trained to recognize people and situations that present a potential threat or violation of law without regard to race.
The Border Patrol welcomes public examination, critiques and criticism where it is deserved. Unfortunately, in this case, allegations and conclusions were reached counter to the facts and do harm to the reputations of dedicated men and women who literally put their lives on the line to secure their country and protect their neighbors.
Brian S. Hastings is chief patrol agent for the Buffalo Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol.