(Washington, D.C.)—Bobby L. Harnage National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today declared his outrage at the remarks of White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who used a hypothetical drunken Border Patrol agent to illustrate the President’s so-called need for greater flexibilities:
"I am amazed and indignant that a personal representative of the President would impugn the integrity of the nation’s hard-working and patriotic Border Patrol agents. These men and women risk their lives every day, working directly on the front-lines in the war against terrorism.
"Fleischer's remarks are an insult to the Border Patrol and undermine homeland security by conveying a dangerously wrong impression to our adversaries about the character and moral fiber of Border Patrol agents.
"Moreover, Mr. Fleischer is dead wrong. If the employee were drunk on the job and allowed a terrorist into the country, he could be fired immediately as a national security risk. Even if he were just drunk on the job, the employee could be immediately suspended from his job, and then removed entirely from the payroll.
"At the behest of the President, Mr. Fleisher makes a mockery of the seriousness of American security. He mocks union members in the Defense Department's civilian workforce who have supported America's critical war efforts through the decades, including the Gulf War, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
"Not one complaint has ever been raised that their status, collective bargaining or civil service protections have ever interfered with our nation’s security.
AFGE represents over 32,500 employees who would be transferred to the new Homeland Security Department from such agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (including the Border Patrol), and the Federal Protective Service.