The official word came from Dr. Richard Amos, deputy to the commander of the Aviation and Missile Command, in an 11 a.m. statement to the work force.
"This announcement is just the beginning of a much longer process," he said.
Garrison commander Col. Bob Devlin outlined the recommendations in a 1 p.m. press conference at Bob Jones Auditorium.
"BRAC recommendations transform Redstone Arsenal into a more robust multifunctional installation that serves as the home to a life cycle management command (the Aviation and Missile Command) that is responsible for two high-dollar weapons system commodities (aviation and missiles)," he said. "The goal is to further enhance the overall synergy of Army logistics by relocating headquarters Army Materiel Command to Redstone, an installation that includes various field operating agencies and headquarters that provide key joint operation and research capability to all of DoD. The further addition of technical and research capacity to Redstone further enhances the total synergy of the DoD for rotary wing aviation and missile systems, and is further enhanced by partnering capabilities with the co-located NASA facilities at Redstone."
But there are some proposed departures, including the Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School which is to consolidate with other schools at Fort Lee, Va. This is to bring to a single installation the combat service support training and doctrine development.
"That's a recommendation," OMEMS chief of staff Lt. Col. Mark Davidson said. "If it comes true, we'll follow suit and get on the bandwagon and do what we need to do to get moved. There are a lot of organizations that come under us."
Don Eiermann, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1858, said the news is preliminary at this point.
"My reaction right now is one of OK, the information is good but I know there is going to be a lot of gyration and change," he said. "The list is very fluid. It's comforting that Redstone is in the gaining side on the outset. But I'm just being cautiously optimistic, I guess. Right now we don't know which agencies those numbers are coming out of."
The union president said his main concern now is the National Security Personnel System, the Defense Department's revised civilian personnel system. "It can have a very tremendous economic impact too when you talk about changing the pay system," he said.
The BRAC Commission will review and possibly change some Defense Department recommendations; and the commission presents its recommendations to the president in early September. The president must approve or reject the entire list. If approved, he will forward it to Congress in late September. Congress then has 45 days to approve or reject the entire list, so nothing will be final until later this fall. Then it may take up to six years to implement.
Specifically BRAC '05 recommends that the following activities relocate to Redstone Arsenal:
* What: Activities in rotary wing air platform research, and development, acquisition, test and evaluation activities from Fort Rucker, and Warner-Robins Air Force Base, Ga. Why: Establish Joint Center for Rotary Wing Air Platform RDA T &E.
* What: Missile Defense Agency functions and Space and Missile Defense Command from various leased locations. Why: Consolidates headquarters to one location, moves personnel from leased office space in the National Capital Region, and provides enhanced force protection for DoD activities on a military installation.
* What: headquarters, Army Materiel Command and Army Security Assistance Command from Fort Belvoir, Va. Why: Moves Army headquarters agencies out of the National Capital Region and collocates AMC headquarters with one of its major subordinate commands.
* What: 2nd Recruiting Brigade from Fort Gillem, Ga. Why: Locates the unit in a central southeastern U.S. location with access to a transportation center in Huntsville.
BRAC '05 recommends that the following activities relocate from Redstone Arsenal:
* What: Joint robotics program development and acquisition activities to Detroit Arsenal, Warren, Mich., and consolidate them with the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems, PEO Combat Support and Combat Service Support and Tank Automotive Research Development Engineering Center. Why: Consolidate Department of Defense expertise in Ground Vehicle Development and Acquisition activities at Detroit Arsenal.
* What: Consolidate Information Systems Development and Acquisition to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Why: Consolidation of RD&A at a single site is essential to achieve the transformational objective.
* What: Missile and Munitions Center to Fort Lee, Va. Why: Consolidates Combat Service Support training and doctrine development at a single installation.
* What: Inventory Control Point functions for Aviation Consumable Items to Defense Supply Center Richmond, Va., and reestablish them as Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Inventory Control Point functions; procurement management functions for Aviation Depot Level Reparables and designate them as Defense Supply Center Richmond, VA, Aviation Inventory Control Point functions; Inventory Control Point functions for Missile Consumable Items to Defense Supply Center Columbus, Ohio, and reestablish them as Defense Logistics Agency Missile Inventory Control Point functions; procurement management functions for Missile Depot Level Reparables and designate them as Defense Supply Center Columbus, Ohio, Missile Inventory Control Point functions; and relocate a portion of the remaining integrated materiel management, user and related support functions necessary to oversee the Inventory Control Point activities at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Detroit Arsenal, Mich., and Redstone Arsenal to Fort Belvoir, Va. Why: Supports the acquisition management of the remaining Service Consumable Items and Depot Level Reparables of a single DoD agency/activity.
The changes result in an overall gain of 1,655 positions including military and civilian, according to a preliminary analysis by the Army BRAC Office based on fiscal 2003 data. This offsets a loss of 986 military.
"The foundation of what AMC does is to serve the nation's warfighters who keep our nation safe," Gen. Benjamin Griffin, commander of Army Materiel Command, said in a release from Fort Belvoir. "BRAC recommendations will allow all of the services, including AMC, to serve our warfighters better. My first priority is people, and I will do all I can to ensure that AMC employees are taken care of and will continue to keep everyone informed as the process continues."
Pentagon and Union Officials Differ on Progress, but Will Keep Talking
By Stephen Barr
Friday, May 20, 2005; B02
The closed-door talks on a Pentagon plan to overhaul pay and personnel rules for Defense Department civil service employees, set to end yesterday, will continue, starting up again June 1, Pentagon officials and union leaders said.
"We believe we have made progress in a lot of areas," said Brad Bunn , deputy program executive officer for the department's National Security Personnel System.
But Mark Roth , general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, said almost no progress was made during a month of talks on resolving differences between unions and the Pentagon over creation of the new system, known as NSPS.
"In every important area, they say they are not going to move off the regulations," Roth said.
The Pentagon proposed rules in February that would place Defense civilians under a more rigorous job performance rating system, use job ratings as a factor in pay raises, give Defense more control over employee appeals of disciplinary action and weaken union clout. Administration officials have pointed to the Pentagon plan as a possible model for government-wide changes to workplace rules.
Congress, in 2003, authorized Defense to make changes that would create a more flexible personnel system. Defense officials testified that the current rules hinder speedy responses to terrorism and other national security threats.
The unions contend that the Pentagon plan goes far beyond what Congress intended. Labor leaders estimate that the proposed rules would prohibit bargaining over 75 percent of the matters that usually come up in negotiations. They note that the proposed rules also include a clause that would permit the secretary of defense to void any part of a contract by issuing a department-wide directive.
On May 10, Charles S. Abell , principal deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness, told union leaders that Defense would not budge on its plan to reduce the number of issues that must be negotiated with unions. "We recognize that our proposed regulation narrows the scope of bargaining, but we believe it strikes the appropriate balance," he said.
That response angered six unions, which pulled out of the NSPS talks. Despite the Pentagon's stance, Roth said, several unions have agreed to stay in the talks to push alternatives, such as putting labor negotiations on a fast track at the national -- rather than local -- level, and creating third-party review of pay decisions to reassure employees that they would be made in a fair manner.
Bunn said that unions "have given us a lot of proposals" and that Defense officials plan to use the coming week to prepare answers and responses for the next round of talks.
"We have touched on all their issues and all pieces of the proposed regulation," Bunn said. When the talks restart, he said, the two sides will see "what is left to talk about. . . . We don't foresee a long list of remaining issues."
In Survey, Most Workers Are Critical of Management
By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 20, 2005; A19
Slightly more than one-fourth of federal employees think their managers adequately deal with low-performing workers, and fewer than half say their agencies properly recognize high achievers, according to a comprehensive survey of the federal workforce released yesterday.
The Federal Human Capital Survey, a poll of 147, 914 workers conducted by the Office of Personnel Management, also found that only 42 percent of employees said awards are tied to how well workers do their jobs, and about a third said promotions are based on merit.
OPM officials declined to provide agency-by-agency breakouts of poll results yesterday, saying they will not be ready until next week.
Doris Hausser, a senior adviser at the OPM, cited the survey in pressing the Bush administration's case for government-wide changes in federal personnel rules -- changes that officials say will more strongly link pay to performance rather than to longevity in a job. Hausser said the survey findings reflect a civil service system that is "anemic" with respect to rewarding good workers and "cumbersome" when it comes to disciplining or motivating bad ones.
"Our system, particularly in the reward area, tends to be very flat -- the same thing happens to everybody, no matter what," Hausser said during a briefing for reporters yesterday. Since 2002, the administration has won from Congress the authority to revise personnel systems at the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Bush officials argued that managers needed more power over how workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined to better fight the war on terrorism.
Homeland Security officials unveiled their system in January and will phase it in over several years beginning this summer. It will replace the General Schedule pay system with one of broad salary ranges attached to jobs grouped by occupation, and will link raises to the results of annual performance evaluations. It also will curtail the power of labor unions in bargaining over workplace rules and conditions. Pentagon officials have proposed similar changes and hope to begin implementing them this summer.
Federal employee unions, who say the new systems will strip employees of many rights and allow managers to play favorites, argue that the survey results merely illustrate that agencies are not using the tools already available to them. Union officials note that managers already may reward top performers with accelerated pay raises and annual bonuses. And they have the authority to discipline, suspend or fire workers, as long as they respect due process, union officials said.
"They've already decided to change the system, but the system isn't what's causing this problem," Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in an interview. "If they don't implement whatever the new system is any better than they are implementing the current system, they are going to get the same kind of results."
Some of the survey findings point up the challenges of moving to personnel systems that place more emphasis on managers' ability to conduct meaningful performance evaluations, fairly administer discipline and establish a climate of productivity.
For instance, the survey found that only 37 percent of federal workers think their agency leaders are good at motivating the workforce. And less than half say bosses maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii), the top Democrat on a Senate subcommittee on the civil service, said the survey raises concerns that managers could be a weak link in the new personnel systems. "It is critical that employees believe that the proposed systems are credible and that they have confidence in their leaders," he said in a statement.
OPM officials and union leaders alike noted that the survey showed that federal workers are committed to their jobs, with 91 percent saying they do important work and 83 percent saying they like what they do. Majorities of workers also say they are satisfied with their benefits and pay. The scientific poll was conducted from August through December last year and has a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point, officials said.
Dan G. Blair, acting OPM director, called the findings evidence of "a professional workforce that is dedicated and committed to working for America."
Jacqueline Simon, public policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, said the survey paints a picture of a workforce that is generally satisfied with the current system.
"In spite of this, the administration has worked itself up into a froth over a phony federal employee performance crisis, the only answer to which is to revert to Wal-Mart model of managerial omnipotence," Simon said in an e-mail.
Inaction in New York Prison Abuse Stirs Anger
Justice officials called the treatment of immigrants after 9/11 outrageous. The Bureau of Prisons has not held anyone to account.
By Richard B. Schmitt and Richard A. Serrano
Times Staff Writers
May 21, 2005
WASHINGTON — It was the first prison abuse scandal of the post-Sept. 11 era, when scores of immigrants were rounded up and jailed in New York after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
They were never charged with terrorism — but they endured abusive treatment that Justice Department investigators concluded was outrageous and cruel. It included being slammed into walls and subjected to unnecessary body cavity searches, some of it captured on videotape.
More than three years after the incidents, despite a recommendation from the department's internal watchdog that a dozen correctional officers be disciplined, no one has been held to account. A Bureau of Prisons official said the agency was still reviewing the matter and "working as expeditiously as possible."
"It is important that our investigation be thorough and complete, leaving no stone unturned," spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said.
But the inaction has triggered criticism from human rights groups and dissension in the Justice Department. Recently, the department's inspector general expressed dismay that the Bureau of Prisons, the arm of the department overseeing the investigation, was dragging its feet.
U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, said he wasn't familiar with details of the matter but voiced concern.
"They need to review it," Gonzales said, "but honestly, review needs to end at some point."
The drawn-out process has angered former prisoners, many of them long since deported on immigration violations. Some have joined civil rights suits against U.S. authorities. But those actions are also stalled. The defendants, from prison guards up to former U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, argue in court papers that they are immune from legal action because the circumstances of the detentions were within the scope of their official duties.
A federal judge in Louisiana dismissed one such suit, filed on behalf of a man held in solitary confinement for 73 days after Sept. 11, saying that security-related decisions by prison administrators deserved "great deference."
"They … let them get away with it," said Yasser Ebrahim, who after Sept. 11 spent more than eight months in solitary at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, a maximum-security facility that has been the focal point of the abuse investigation.
Now Ebrahim is back in his native Alexandria, Egypt, running a jewelry business with his brother, who was also incarcerated for months at the Brooklyn jail. Ebrahim is a plaintiff in a class-action suit that a group of former prisoners has filed in Brooklyn federal court. He said he had a software business in the United States and was arrested because his visa renewal was a month overdue.
He alleges he was abusively strip-searched and subjected to inhumane conditions, including sleep deprivation, denial of medical care and interference with his ability to practice his Muslim faith.
He also says he was physically abused. Guards slammed him face-first against prison walls, leaving him with a bruised and bloodied nose for weeks, he said. Guards often stomped on his leg chains with their boots, causing excruciating pain, he said.
"Here in Egypt, I would say 'Yes, this could happen to anybody.' In America, it was shocking and disappointing," Ebrahim said by phone from Egypt. "We learned everything about democracy and human rights from the United States."
He is being represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York advocacy group.
Lawyers for other foreign nationals picked up across the country after Sept. 11 said Ebrahim's experience was hardly unique, and they were struck by the lack of progress in the lawsuits. One problem is that so many of the plaintiffs were deported, making it harder to press their abuse claims in U.S. courts where they might testify at a trial. Prosecutors have appeared reluctant to track down victims once they are no longer in the U.S. to make a case.
Karen Pennington, a Dallas lawyer, represented Majid al Shaihri when he was jailed in Denton, Texas. "He got down to 80 pounds in jail, and apparently had a bad ear infection," she recalled. "But instead of treating that, they pulled some of his teeth."
Her client was eventually deported to Saudi Arabia because his visa was out of status. His American-born wife "talked about a lawsuit," but Pennington said nothing came of it.
The guards defend their conduct, saying they performed well under difficult circumstances. Many at the Brooklyn facility lost friends and acquaintances in the collapse of the twin towers, and helped recover their remains at ground zero. The union representing the guards initially asked management to consider housing the detainees in another city because emotions were running high.
"I think our guys stayed very professional," said Phil Glover, president of the Council of Prison Locals of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents federal correctional workers, including those at the Brooklyn jail. The union is preparing to help defend guards if charges are brought.
"When you are under a microscope, you can find all kinds of things wrong," Glover said.
The dragnet in New York was controversial from the start, stirring allegations of racial profiling as hundreds of foreign nationals, most of Arab and South Asian descent, were rounded up and jailed. The arrests were largely based on violations of federal immigration law, such as having an expired visa, which were previously considered minor.
Attention soon focused on the Brooklyn facility, where authorities held 84 detainees considered to be "of high interest." A report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine in June 2003 identified problems at the facility and criticized immigration and prison authorities, saying they held suspects too long and inappropriately denied them access to family members and lawyers.
Fine's investigators also found evidence of physical and verbal abuse, but were initially unable to corroborate the allegations. At the time, the guards denied they did anything wrong, and prison officials claimed that key evidence — videotapes from a prison recording system from the months after Sept. 11 — had been destroyed.
Many of the tapes later surfaced in a prison storage room — whether they were lost or intentionally hidden remains unclear — and in stark detail they revealed guards slamming inmates against walls, among other acts.
Armed with the tapes, Fine issued a follow-up report detailing myriad problems and evidence that officers "slammed detainees against the wall, twisted their arms and hands in painful ways, stepped on their leg restraint chains, and punished them by keeping them restrained for long periods of time."
The report also identified a bizarre jailhouse ritual in which guards would "escort detainees down a hall at a brisk pace and ram them into a wall without slowing down before impact." Some were apparently slammed against a wall where a T-shirt hung with a picture of the American flag. The shirt bore the slogan "These Colors Don't Run" — and bloodstains.
The report touched off a public outcry, and tended to legitimize accusations that former prisoners were making in their private suits.
For example, an Egyptian restaurant worker detained in Brooklyn, Ehab Elmaghraby, alleged in a suit in Brooklyn federal court that guards "willfully and maliciously pushed a pencil" into his anal cavity during a strip search. Elmaghraby said guards inserted a flashlight during another search, which caused rectal bleeding.
Billingsley, the Bureau of Prisons official, said prosecutors conducted a separate criminal investigation of the guards, but no charges were brought. She said that investigation contributed to the delay in the bureau's internal inquiry.
Fine recommended in a private report that 10 Bureau of Prisons employees be disciplined and two others receive counseling. He also recommended that current employers of four staff members who left the prison bureau be notified about their involvement in the case.
"Unfortunately, a year and a half after issuance of our report, the BOP still is reviewing the matter and has not imposed any discipline," Fine told another House committee recently.
Deputy Atty. Gen. James Comey, acknowledging the mistreatment of prisoners, told the same subcommittee: "No excuse for that. Unacceptable. Not what the American people want done."
Feds happy with their workplaces
But OPM survey shows workers are critical of managers
BY David Perera
Published on May 23, 2005
An Office of Personnel Management survey of federal workers found that the government needs to do a better job of tying employees' pay to their performance.
A quarter of employees said poorly performing workers are not properly dealt with and less than half believe that high performers are regularly recognized or rewarded, according to recently released 2004 Federal Human Capital Survey results.
"We're concerned that there's an awful lack of performance sensitivity in our reward systems," said Doris Hauser, a senior OPM adviser. "There has got to be recognition, and employees are reporting it's still not there," she said at a May 19 press conference.
But despite that dissatisfaction, 83 percent of federal workers said they like their jobs. That number may not be sustainable, however, without instituting a pay-for-performance system, Hauser said. Recent government recruits "may not be as likely to stay with an employer for a long time," especially if they see that outstanding and mediocre workers are treated equally, she said.
OPM surveyed about 150,000 federal employees during the last half of 2004. Of those, 71 percent said they get a sense of personal accomplishment from their jobs.
The 2004 survey was conducted before pay-for-performance systems began to be implemented at the Homeland Security and Defense departments.
One union official interpreted the OPM survey results not as a mandate for big changes, but as a call to adequately fund the current pay system and manage it more effectively.
"Federal employees are well aware that the Bush administration's pay for performance would mean a general reduction of pay for the entire federal workforce, except for a few well-connected favorites getting big raises at everyone else's expense," said Jacque Simon, public policy director at the American Federation of Government Employees, in an e-mail message.
Simon said the survey results are easy to dismiss or misinterpret. "When employees say elsewhere that managers are poorly trained and ineffective, their wisdom is ignored, except when they complain about managers' reluctance to fire so-called poor performers, which again is misinterpreted as a call for unrestricted power for managers to fire anyone at will," she said.
Worker happiness would probably initially decrease under a newly instituted governmentwide pay-for-performance system, Hauser said. Previous small-scale projects show that "in the first couple of years, there is expressed dissatisfaction," she said. "We would be foolish not to anticipate that again."
After workers acclimate to the new system, however, satisfaction edges up and surpasses previous levels, Hauser said. The dissatisfaction mainly comes from resistance to change in large organizations, she added.
In the survey, workers rated organization leaders' honesty, integrity and ability to motivate workers as less than stellar. Only 38 percent of surveyed workers felt motivated by leaders, and only 49 percent felt leaders had high standards of honesty and integrity.
Officials criticize Homeland Security bill
Lawmaker says more detention facilities needed to hold OTMs
By LAURA B. MARTINEZ
The Brownsville Herald
May 20, 2005 — Dressing the border with additional U.S. Border Patrol agents will not deter illegal immigration as long as the government refuses to build facilities to hold them, officials said.
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said undocumented non-Mexican immigrants will continue emigrating, and the House approval of adding 2,000 agents will not solve the problem.
“It doesn’t matter how many Border Patrol agents we have out there. … The attraction (to illegally enter the country) is the fact that we are giving them a piece of paper (notice to attend a deportation hearing) that allows them to come into the country and they are coming in record of numbers,” Bonner said.
The House on Wednesday passed the Homeland Security Authorization Bill that would allow the hiring of 2,000 Border Patrol agents next year, but lawmakers nixed an amendment to provide more federal detention beds.
The measure, which called for a Comprehensive Border Strategy, was voted down 230-196 because of lack of funding for the projects, said U.S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz, D-Texas, who worked on the amendment with U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss.
“They (lawmakers) made sure that it failed,” Ortiz said in a telephone interview Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, voted against the amendment because it was introduced as a new bill rather than an amendment to the original bill filed in April by U.S. Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif.
“Everyone was debating a different bill and he (Thompson) tried to change the bill,” said Blair Jones, spokesman for Smith. “The option is to vote yes or no on everything in the bill.”
With lack of detention beds to hold the OTMs, or “Other Than Mexicans” — a phrase designated to non-Mexican immigrants entering this country illegally — the government must release them on a promise to appear at a detention hearing. Officials report about 90 percent of OTMs disappear in the process.
Although Mexicans are also offered hearings, most opt for voluntary deportation, said Asa Hutchison, undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security.
The southern border has become a hotspot for OTM crossings, according to Border Patrol officials.
Since March, more than 200 Brazilians have been apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley, according to Border Patrol statistics.
In previous interviews, Ortiz said people from 70 to 80 countries pass through the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector, which covers Brownsville to north of Corpus Christi.
Ortiz has been pursuing stricter immigration laws that would allow the government to hold OTMs at detention facilities. Of the 19,000 apprehended nationwide during the first half of the fiscal year, about 40 percent were caught in the Valley, according to Border Patrol.
“Until you build a detention facility you won’t be able to send signals that they are going to be apprehended, they are going to be detained and they are going to be able to go before a judge,” Ortiz said.
“They are going to continue to come in because they know they are going to be turned loose.”
Like Bonner, Ortiz said hiring more Border Patrol agents does not make sense unless facilities are available to hold detainees.
Ortiz said the government could be hesitating on funding more detention centers because it may be trying to obtain contracts with state and county jails to detain immigrants.
Cameron County already is contracted by the U.S. Marshals to hold federal detainees.
“We don’t know. All we know is there is no money for detention” facilities, Ortiz said.
The Senate is working on its own version of a Homeland Security Bill and Ortiz hopes it will include funding for more detention beds to add to the 800-plus capacity at the Port Isabel Service Processing Center in Bayview and other Cameron County facilities.
“We are not the only ones having problems with illegal aliens,” Ortiz said. “We are going to be working with the Senate and see what we can do to provide the facilities.”
Homeland Security bill lets illegals go free
Without more detention facilities, 'other-than-Mexicans' must be released
Posted: May 22, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com
The president of a labor organization representing Border Patrol employees and a Texas congressman are criticizing the House's recently passed Homeland Security bill for failing to fund construction of new detention facilities to hold illegal border-crossers from countries other than Mexico, resulting in their automatic release pending a later hearing date.
HR 1817, the Department of Homeland Security authorization bill passed last Wednesday by the House, approved adding 2,000 new Border Patrol agents, but this is not enough, says T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing 10,000 non-supervisory U.S. Border Patrol employees.
"It doesn't matter how many Border Patrol agents we have out there. ... The attraction (to illegally enter the U.S.) is the fact that we are giving them a piece of paper (notice to appear for a deportation hearing) that allows them to come into the country and they are coming in record of numbers," Bonner tells the Brownsville Herald.
The Texas-Mexico border between Brownsville and Corpus Christi has become a major transit area for OTMs – "other than Mexicans," according to the Border Patrol. In the last two months, over 200 Brazilians have been arrested in the Rio Grande Valley.
According to U.S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz, D-Texas, immigrants from 70 to 80 countries pass through the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley Sector.
When illegals are apprehended, they are offered the option of being deported or appearing for a deportation hearing. While most Mexicans opt to be sent back to their country, OTMS must be held until their hearing, or must be released if there is no space to hold them. Currently, most are released on their own recognizance and promise to appear. Officials report about 90 percent of those disappear in the process – a number now estimated to be approaching 75,000, according to Ortiz whose congressional district includes the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
Of 19,000 OTMs apprehended in the U.S. during the first half of the fiscal year, about 40 percent were caught in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, the Border Patrol reports.
"Until you build a detention facility, you won't be able to send signals that they are going to be apprehended, they are going to be detained and they are going to be able to go before a judge," Ortiz says.
"They are going to continue to come in because they know they are going to be turned loose."
Ortiz worked closely with U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., to amend the Homeland Security bill to include $285 million to build detention beds so apprehended illegals do not have to be set free, but the measure failed on a 230-196 vote. Republicans who voted against the amendment say that Thompson's measure constituted a new bill rather than an amendment to the one being debated.
"The option is to vote yes or no on everything in the bill," said a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.
Ortiz notes that the U.S. Marshals office has contracted with one Texas county to detain federal detainees and that approach may yet be an option for holding OTM's until their hearing dates. He also holds out hope that the Senate version of the Homeland Security bill could help plug this loophole in the border.
"We are not the only ones having problems with illegal aliens," Ortiz says. "We are going to be working with the Senate and see what we can do to provide the facilities."
Tancredo Calls for Border Official to Resign; Eight Congressmen Sign Tancredo's Letter to DHS Secretary Chertoff
Rep. Tom Tancredo Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) called for the resignation of Michael Nicely, Agent-in-Charge of the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, after a dozen Border Patrol agents confirmed that he ordered them to reduce the apprehension of illegal aliens crossing the border.
Eight Congressmen signed Tancredo's letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff calling for Nicely's resignation. Ten Congressmen signed a separate letter by Tancredo which calls for the House Judiciary Committee to initiate an investigation into the "stand down" orders.
"Any government official that seeks to thwart the law is derelict in his duty to the American people. Mr. Nicely must take responsibility for his actions and turn over his post to someone who is willing to enforce the law," said Tancredo.
A dozen Border Patrol agents told the Washington Times that they had been instructed to "stand down" from arresting illegal aliens near where Minutemen protestors had patrolled in April. The agents understood that an increase in arrests would prove the effectiveness of extra manpower on the border and would credit the Minutemen's approach. Several sources, including the President of the National Border Patrol Council, have confirmed the newspaper report.
Tancredo called for a Congressional investigation into the incident. "In a post-9/11 world, it is critical that we send the message that we're serious about border security. A Congressional investigation will get to the bottom of these troubling and dangerous practices," said Tancredo.
"If Mr. Nicely was acting on orders from officials higher up in the border bureaucracy, more heads should roll," concluded Tancredo. "Congress needs to exercise more active oversight of our border security."