October 29 - November 4
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
The Beacon of Change
Whistleblowers within Border Patrol
A whistleblower, often regarded as the moral compass of an organization, holds a pivotal position in promoting transparency and ensuring accountability. The bravery in voicing concerns against malpractices not only preserves the integrity of the Border Patrol but also ignites a wave of positive change. This post explores a significant whistleblowing instance within the Border Patrol, highlighting how this courageous act was instrumental in driving crucial reforms, fortifying the agency's foundations, and enhancing its operational efficiency.
Whistleblowers: The Catalysts for Change
Central to each act of whistleblowing is a robust moral compass that drives individuals to highlight practices straying from ethical and legal standards. Within the Border Patrol and the broader Department of Homeland Security, whistleblowers have been pivotal in unearthing areas of concern. Their collective voice has set the stage for much-needed reforms, illuminating the path towards enhanced accountability and operational efficiency.
Navigating the Waters of Reform
A significant chapter in promoting organizational accountability unfolded with the collective whistleblowing efforts surrounding the misuse of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO) across the Department of Homeland Security, including within the Border Patrol. These whistleblowers pointed out the potential misuse of AUO claims to augment employees' paychecks and future retirement benefits, under a veil of managerial approval. While the subsequent investigation found inadequate documentation to fully confirm the allegations, it nonetheless spotlighted areas needing reform. This collective whistleblowing initiative, though not entirely validated, ignited a pathway towards substantial reform, fostering a more accountable and transparent operational framework within the Border Patrol.
From Revelation to Reform
The whistleblowers' disclosures across the Department of Homeland Security catalyzed a thorough investigation, with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) playing a pivotal role in forwarding these concerns. A notable case, identified as DI-14-1093 and centered in Washington, D.C., was closed on March 11, 2015, showcasing significant results. The outcomes included changes in agency rules, regulations, policy, or practices, other actions taken, and notable cost savings to the government, underscoring the level of accountability fostered through these efforts.
The DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an in-depth probe that substantiated the concerns surrounding the misuse of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO). The findings revealed inconsistencies and a lack of clarity in claiming AUO, echoing the whistleblowers’ concerns. In a decisive response to these findings, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske implemented a plan to address the issue of AUO abuse. This plan included the de-authorization of AUO not just for Border Patrol Headquarters positions, but for many positions across CBP, marking a significant stride towards eradicating the identified inconsistencies.
This action ushered in a new era of enhanced operational transparency and financial accountability within the Border Patrol and CBP at large, showcasing the tangible positive change that can emerge from the courageous actions of whistleblowers. For a deeper understanding of this case, readers can refer to the Letter to the President, the Agency Report, and the Case Summary provided by the OSC.
Legislative Response: The Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act
The echoes of the whistleblowers’ disclosures reached the halls of Congress, serving as a significant catalyst in the enactment of the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act of 2014. This Act didn't alter the AUO system but introduced a new pay structure that better aligns with the operational demands of Border Patrol agents, while also demonstrating fiscal responsibility by projecting approximately $100 million in annual savings for taxpayers. This legislative milestone showcases the profound influence that whistleblowers, through their courageous actions, can have in promoting meaningful change and fostering a culture of accountability and operational efficiency within federal agencies.
The narrative of whistleblowers within the Border Patrol exemplifies a steadfast commitment to truth, justice, and organizational integrity. Although their actions may have been met with resistance initially, they were instrumental in catalyzing positive change. Their efforts have not only fortified the Border Patrol's dedication to uphold the law, protect human rights, and foster a more accountable operational environment, but also demonstrated the impactful role of vigilant individuals in nurturing reform. The story of these whistleblowers underpins the compelling notion that with a relentless pursuit of truth, even the most established systems can be steered towards a path of reform, ensuring a more transparent, accountable, and effective operational framework within the Border Patrol and the broader Department of Homeland Security.
This week, we take a closer look at several key events in U.S. Border Patrol history. Beginning in 1918, the Father of the Border Patrol, Frank Berkshire, submitted his final proposal for the creation of the Border Patrol, envisioning a force of 264 Border Patrolmen for the southern border. Transitioning to 1924, a memo highlights the confusion regarding the authorities of Border Patrol Inspectors, which would be clarified with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1925. Moving to 1930, a gunfight in El Paso involved three Border Patrol Inspectors and an individual known as "Chato," shedding light on the dangerous nature of border enforcement. In 1959, in response to activities following the Cuban Revolution, Operation Pressure was initiated to manage the illegal entry of Cuban nationals and illicit traffic between the U.S. and Cuba, showcasing the Border Patrol's adaptability in addressing geopolitical challenges. Additionally, in 1992, a redesign of the shoulder epaulets for the supervisory corps marked a significant change in the Border Patrol uniform, reflecting the evolving identity of the agency. Join us as we continue to explore these occurrences, and much more, that have significantly contributed to the evolution of the U.S. Border Patrol.
This week, we honor two agents on the anniversary of their Newton-Azrak Award actions.
During this week, we solemnly remember two of our fallen on the anniversaries of their deaths.
Enjoy and have a great week!
P.S. - As an open and continuous invitation to current and former USBP employees, I am always accepting photos to post in the USBP Photo Galleries and in the Upholding Honor First pages. I sure would appreciate you visiting those pages and sending me anything that you think I could post (just send them to firstname.lastname@example.org). As always, make sure to explore all of the hyperlinks to the documents and pages. Finally, please forward this blog to whomever you think may enjoy it.
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de corps is reinforced through the shared goals, mission and values of the organization and its employees.
The definition turns Esprit de Corps into a simple formula and defines parts that comprise organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de Corps = Organizational Pride + Employee Morale
Esprit de Corps is the key to a healthy organization and engaged employees.
Honor First is foundational to the Border Patrol's organizational pride and integral to its Esprit de Corps.
THROWBACK PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Camp Chigas Across Six Decades
Witness the precise locale of Camp Chigas as this composition superimposes aerial visuals from 1955 over a 2014 map. Nestled just north of the U.S./Mexican border, the green circle pinpoints the enduring presence of this Border Patrol facility.
Authors Note - Recently, the U.S. Border Patrol revised its uniform policy. Under the revision, shoulder ornaments are no longer worn on the Class C uniform, which is designated for rough duty. Shoulder ornaments were defined in the very first Border Patrol uniform and were worn by all Border Patrol Inspectors from 1924 until the early 1940s, where they became a symbol of rank. For the first time in 99 years, shoulder ornaments are not worn on the Border Patrol's work uniform. As a Border Patrol historian, this change is deeply disheartening as a direct connection to the Patrol's earliest years is partially severed. I believe that this change was made without knowledge or reference, by the decision-makers, to the role of shoulder ornaments throughout USBP history.
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Jesus E. De La Vega
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent
El Centro Sector
On November 2, 1999 at about 11:20 PM, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jesus E. De La Vega was patrolling the border area along Interstate Highway 8 near Seeley, California. As he turned off the highway, he saw a huge white cloud of smoke covering the ramp. Through the smoke, he was able to make out a vehicle that had just crashed, rolled over twice, and come to rest on its side. Flames shot out from the front passenger compartment and from under the hood.
Looking for occupants, SBPA De La Vega spied a single male victim, later identified as a Bruce Allen Stanley, who was severely disoriented and desperately attempting to exit the vehicle. Stanley could make no headway, unable as he was to move his right arm, which had been injured when the vehicle rolled over. Agent De La Vega asked Mr. Stanley whether any other occupants were in the vehicle. The victim stated that he was the only one. As the flames became more intense, Agent De La Vega, oblivious to his own safety, attempted to open the door of the vehicle, but was initially beaten back by the smoke and heat. After a few more attempts, Agent De La Vega was finally able to pull open the door, release the man’s seat belt, and drag him to safety away from the vehicle, which by then was entirely engulfed in flames. Agent De La Vega proceeded to administer emergency first aid to Mr. Stanley and make him as comfortable as possible.
Next, he radioed for emergency services, and within minutes, units from the California Highway Patrol, Imperial County Fire Department, and Gold Cross Ambulance had responded. They treated Mr. Stanley for the injuries to his shoulder and arm and for smoke inhalation. For his part, Agent De La Vega escaped injury. His selfless and heroic actions saved a life and are a true inspiration.
Border Patrol Agent
On November 1, 2007, in Wellton, AZ, Agent Miranda observed a house almost completely engulfed in flames. Without regard for his personal safety, he entered the structure through the front door and assisted a woman in a wheelchair to safety. He immediately reentered the house, located a double amputee elderly man, and led him to safety. At that point, Agent Miranda was informed that a mother and two children were still in the house. A third time, he entered through the front door only to find that the ceiling was fully engulfed and that fiery debris was falling on him. As he retreated outside, he was told that the room in which the mother and children were believed to be was on the rear, right side of the house. With the help of a neighbor, Agent Miranda dislodged an air-conditioning unit from the wall, creating an entry point into the room. For a fourth time, Agent Miranda entered the house to save people. He found the room to be full of black smoke, with such intense heat that breathing was nearly impossible. Again, he was forced to retreat. Once outside, Agent Miranda instructed the neighbor to use a nearby garden hose and to douse his uniform with water. For a fifth time, Agent Miranda entered the house. He found the room to be engulfed in flame, full of choking smoke and raining debris from the ceiling that was on fire. Over the next week, Agent Miranda would lose his eyelashes, eyebrows and much of his hair. The heat that he experienced inside the house was so intense that it cause the hair to become brittle and to break off. For his conspicuous heroism and extraordinary courage, he was awarded the Commissioner’s Meritorious Service Award for Valor and the Secretary’s Valor Award. Agent Miranda’s actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
As of March 6, 2023 the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 155* fallen.
The following names hold a distinguished position, as they have made the ultimate sacrifice in their unwavering commitment to uphold the oath each officer took to protect and defend the United States of America.
The facts concerning each officer are presented with minimal editing to preserve the "language of the day" found in the original reports, providing readers with a sense of historical context.
In compliance with the Privacy Act of 1974, the cause of death for employees who lost their lives in the line of duty due to exposure to lethal illnesses will not be disclosed.
* Please note that despite their deaths meeting the criteria for Line-of-Duty-Deaths at the time, Patrol Inspector Garvis Field Harrell and Border Patrol Agent John Charles Gigax are not officially recognized as fallen by either the Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. Border Patrol. However, HonorFirst.com respectfully recognizes and includes both Inspector Harrell and Agent Gigax among those who have fallen in the line of duty.
David N. Webb
Date of Birth: November 24, 1970
Entered on Duty: February 23, 2004
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: November 3, 2006
On November 3, 2006, Border Patrol Agent David N. Webb was enroute to his normal patrol duties on the Tohono O’odham Nation within the Ajo Station Area of Responsibility. At approximately 5:18 p.m., Agent Webb was involved in a single vehicle accident. Border Patrol Agents working nearby responded to assist Police and emergency medical services personnel at the scene of the accident. Agent Webb did not survive the injuries sustained from the accident.
Agent Webb was 36 years old and was a graduate of the 580th session of the Border Patrol Academy. He served his country as a member of the 186th Infantry in the Oregon Army National Guard, where he saw service in the Sinai Desert as a member of a United Nations Peace Keeping Force from May 2002 to February 2003.
Burial Details Unknown
David R. Delaney
Date of Birth September 5, 1968
Entered on Duty: December 12, 2002
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: November 2, 2012
On November 2, 2012, Border Patrol Agent David R. Delaney collapsed and died while patrolling on foot near Big Bend National Park in Texas.
Agent Delaney entered on duty as a member of the 536th academy session on December 12, 2002. Following his graduation, he was assigned to the Calexico Station in the El Centro Sector. He then transferred to Houlton and Grand Forks Sectors before settling in at the Big Bend National Park Sub-Station of Alpine Station in the Big Bend Sector in 2011.
Agent Delaney is survived by his wife and three children.
Help spread the word!
Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Supervisory Border Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
I prefer that you leave comments. However, if you wish to contact me, please do so by emailing Cliff@HonorFirst.com.