By NINA SHAPIRO
One of the things that seems so curious about the Border Patrol’s dramatic expansion in recent years, the subject of our cover story this week, is all the money that the agency is pouring into places that make no sense given their distance from the border. Our sources told us that agents seemed to be looking for something to do–and now a Border Patrol whistleblower from Port Angeles has stepped forward with a jaw-dropping affirmation of that view.
“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,” said agent Christian Sanchez in a statement he read at a Washington, D.C., forum on Friday put on by the Advisory Committee on Transparency, a project of the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation. (See Sanchez’s complete statement.)
Sanchez went public after a long-running feud with the Port Angeles station, where he was transferred in 2009 from San Diego. The agent said he was retaliated against after refusing to work overtime–something he felt constituted taxpayer “fraud,” given the lack of actual work to do.
While his supervisors insisted “there is lots of cross-border activity here,” Sanchez said he and fellow agents found none. So they spent their time driving around the Olympic Peninsula, which they came to refer to as the “Baja 500, ” after the car race. It’s a “bad” situation “for bored, high-energy men to be in,” he said.
Although Sanchez didn’t say so, this undoubtedly helps explain why Border Patrol cars are often spotted roving around Forks, home to a sizable Latino population, and why agents seem to be stopping people at random, without the “reasonable suspicion” legally required. It’s one way of looking busy.
And perhaps also one way of justifying a bigger “kingdom,” as Sanchez says his superiors regarded the Port Angeles station. Sanchez reveals that the station, which not long ago had four agents, now has more than 40, a number the Border Patrol has refused to divulge.
For the same reason, the station’s supervisors may be insisting that agents take overtime, suggests Shanna Devine, an investigator with the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy organization that is providing Sanchez with legal counsel. “The illusion of activity” might give the impression that the outpost needed even “more men on the ground,” she says, speaking with SW this morning.
It’s a crazy scenario, and yet when Sanchez refused to go along with it, he says he was told by his superiors to get psychological help. He was also prevented from taking days off, stripped of his role as a Border Patrol chaplain (which he performed in addition to his regular duties as an agent), and subject to creepy monitoring by fellow agents (who would do a “slow roll” by his house and follow him to his Port Townsend attorney). The fact that agents would spend their time following him is yet more proof that they had nothing better to do, Devine says.
Jason Carroll, the agent in charge of the Port Angeles station, declines to comment except to say that Sanchez’s allegations are being investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protect, which encompasses the Border Patrol.