Politics & Policy

Border Patrol Tells Agent: ‘You Must Cease and Desist’ from Speaking with Media

The agent says he expects to lose his job for exposing irresponsible public-health policies at the agency.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has served one of its agents with a letter saying “you must immediately cease and desist” from issuing statements and press releases to the media with information that is “Law Enforcement sensitive,” according to the document, obtained by National Review Online.  

Kathleen Scudder, assistant chief patrol agent of the San Diego Sector, sent the letter to agent Ron Zermeno, health and safety director of National Border Patrol Council Local 1613, notifying him of an investigation into his conduct and to “remind” him that no agent should make statements or issue press releases “without proper authorization.”  

Zermeno confirmed the validity of the letter to NRO. He says he thinks the order is retaliation for his actions as a whistleblower, which have involved exposing the public-health risks associated with the illegal immigrants transported to the San Diego Sector. “As a union officer, I feel it’s my job to expose when management is putting people at risk,” he says. “They violated their oath as Border Patrol agents.” Before receiving the cease-and-desist letter, Zermeno wrote Paul Beeson, the San Diego Sector’s chief patrol agent, to explain that two agents at the Brown Field Border Patrol Station contracted scabies after processing illegal immigrants transported from Texas last week, according to a letter obtained by NRO. Zermeno has spoken to local news outlets about the scabies outbreak too. 

Scudder writes in the cease-and-desist letter that she’s formed no opinion about the allegations against the agent thus far, but Zermeno says he expects to have his employment terminated. “I’m willing to lose my job over this because I know I’m doing the right thing,” Zermeno says. “I’ve been in this agency for 20 years and this is the worst I’ve seen it. It’s similar to the VA.”

The letter does not provide insight about the certain actions of Zermeno’s misconduct. “The Agency has not yet completed a review of all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegation set forth above,” it states. “I expect that you will be given an opportunity to provide information regarding the allegation when reviewed as part of a management fact-finding inquiry.” But Zermeno says other agents have told him that management believes he helped instigate the protests in Murrieta, Calif., against the buses carrying illegal immigrants into the San Diego Sector.

He says he will continue to speak out about public-health problems in the sector until the agency addresses them. He says he’s recently received word that a third Border Patrol agent contracted scabies at the Brown Field Border Patrol Station.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Zermeno says. “They just don’t care. They don’t care what they’re exposing the agents to. They don’t care what they’re exposing the detainees to.” Imagine the health risk that would have existed for the surrounding community had he not spoken out, Zermeno says. “I’m just exposing the truth.” 

— Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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