July 31, 2002
Magda Lynn Seymour
Diane S. Witiak
(202) 639-6419

Border Patrol Agent Says Union Rights Are Vital To Homeland Security

(Washington, D.C.)—"I have dedicated my life to defending the national security of this country and I do not understand how my role as union leader is incompatible with my oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the U.S.," stated Mark Hall, President of the American Federation of Government Employees’ (AFGE) Local 2499 in Detroit, Michigan. Hall spoke today at a news conference held by the Senate Democratic Steering Committee.

Hall is one of two Border Patrol agents, who blew the whistle following September 11, emphasizing that our nation's northern border with Canada was not adequately staffed and a danger to national security. For their efforts, the Justice Department tried to immediately fire the two agents, and failing that, settled on a 90-day suspension, one-year demotion, and reassignment until the media got wind of the story. With pressure from the media; Congress; and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which investigates whistleblower cases, the Justice Department finally relented, dropping all proposed disciplinary actions.

The OSC, in releasing its investigative report on the two agents, stated, "Especially in these times of heightened concern about national security, it is crucial to protect federal employees like Mr. Hall and Mr. Lindemann when they shine public light on security issues. Their efforts represented an act of complete loyalty to our nation and the public they serve."

"I have dedicated my life to protecting this nation and take a back seat to no one on this point," Hall stated. "I am also a proud union member. I believe both roles make me a better citizen, a better employee, and a better American."

"The President is insisting on taking away the civil service system that protects government employees from politics, patronage and cronyism," Hall added. "Yet my story and the stories of many others are evidence that these protections are vital for national security."

"I have been shot at twice, hit, kicked, spit-on, and bitten in the course of carrying out my duties. I have spent months away from my family on detail—as much as four months in a year away from home," Hall concluded. "I have received dozens of commendations for outstanding service to the Border Patrol. I joined the union 17 years ago, and there has never been one instance when my union membership caused me to compromise the security of this nation. In fact, our union has helped me and my fellow officers make this nation a better and safer place."

Read Hall's full statement.

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