National Border Patrol Council Issues Statement about arrest of Michael Atondo

On April 11, 2011, an article appeared in the Yuma Sun about Michael Atondo, who was recently arrested in Yuma, Arizona. In the article, the reporter said Atondo “is also being represented by an attorney from the Border Patrol Union.” As a result, the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), the union for all non-supervisory Border Patrol agents and support personnel assigned to the U.S. Border Patrol, issues the following statement.

One of the many benefits provided by the NBPC is coverage under the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) Legal Defense Fund (LDF) . Determination for coverage under the LDF is made by the Plan Administrator, not the NBPC. In the instant matter against Atondo, LDF determined additional information was needed to make a determination on coverage. This step is to ensure that our members receive a fair and unbiased determination of their case. Nevertheless, upon obtaining and reviewing all of the necessary information, LDF terminated representation. As a result, Atondo will not be represented by an attorney from the NBPC or PORAC LDF in future proceedings.

The NBPC is proud of the two agents who arrived on scene and whose quick thinking and actions led to the arrest of Atondo. Unfortunately, those two agents had to face the unthinkable that day and deal with the fallout from directives that occurred under the former Border Patrol chief and current Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar.

As was reported by the NBPC in the past, Aguilar placed a priority on quantity instead of quality with respect to new hires. While some in Congress believe polygraph exams are the solution, the NBPC believes the focus should not be entirely on new hires. Instead, Congress should focus on the illogical and immoderate changes the Border Patrol made to recruiting, hiring, and training of new hires under the direction of Aguilar.

Rather than waste millions of dollars on polygraphs, Congress should require the Border Patrol to conduct extensive background checks on anyone hired while Aguilar was the chief. Congress should order a review of the recruiting practices of the Border Patrol during the same time. Finally, Congress should demand the Border Patrol lengthen the academy and provide better training over a longer period of time to provide ample opportunity for: trainees to retain core components of the job, and academy instructors to prepare trainees for the field and identify trainees who are not suitable for law enforcement.