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Sheriff Babeu: Border Patrol agents "handcuffed"

Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-08 20:35:45-05

FLORENCE, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - No new agents, agents not assigned to high-trafficked areas, and misleading numbers are all concerns for Sheriff Paul Babeu and Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, from 2000 to 2015 the number of apprehensions of illegal immigrants on the southern border went down from 1.6 million to about 330,000. Judd says the administration claims if that low numbers mean a safer border, but agents say otherwise.

"The administration and [Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection] have engaged in a campaign to mislead the American people to believe our border is secure. He has manipulated the data, had agents assigned to low-trafficked areas, and attempted to quiet dissent by calling those who question his approach as misinformed without offering any evidence to support his allegations," said Judd.

Chris Cabrera is an agent in the Rio Grande Valley and says he and fellow agents are kept in lower-trafficked areas of the border. 

"Our agents are not assigned to some of those [high-traffic] areas, and they are told to stay in the areas they are assigned," said Cabrera.

He added that if they were to patrol a different area, it would go against orders. Cabrera says he had a former boss who told him "if nobody is there to see them, did they really cross?"

Agents say apprehensions would increase if they patrolled high-traffic areas.

Babeu and Judd also raised concerned over consequences for illegal immigrants when they are arrested. Babeu says, if a Pinal County deputy arrests an illegal immigrant, the county will prosecute for state crimes and then pass them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Federally, each time an illegal immigrant is arrested a border patrol agent is supposed to give them a Notice to Appear (NTA). A large portion of those individuals are released and never show up before a judge for the deportation hearing. Now agents release the person without an NTA unless the individual has a previous criminal record according to Judd. Border Patrol will not have a record of the arrest if an NTA is not handed out, Judd says.

"Under the current administration the mission of the border patrol has been altered to meet the amnesty and open border policy being pushed," he said.

Agents say Kerlikowske told them if they did not agree with it's current policy then they could quit. Judd says some agents have already done so, meanwhile they struggle to hire new ones.

"We have agents leaving every day, we can't hire fast enough to handle the attrition," he said.

Nine On Your Side reached out to Customs and Border Protection for comment but they have not yet responded.

Sheriff Babeu is sending a formal letter to the legislature to investigate.