Response promised soon on Border Patrol agent’s claims about ‘black hole,’ misuse of federal funds

Border Patrol Agent Christian Sanchez stands outside the Black Ball ferry terminal in Port Angeles in September 2011. Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The federal government will respond “fairly soon” to claims by U.S. Border Patrol Agent Christian Sanchez that the agency’s Port Angeles station is a “black hole” of inactivity and is misusing federal funds, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said.

“There will probably be an announcement about that fairly soon from [Washington,] D.C.,” said Mike Milne, a spokesman for the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, on Friday.

“At some point in the near future, there will be a decision made.”

Sanchez was working in the detention area of the new Border Patrol facility on Friday when the building had its grand opening and reporters were given a tour of the facility.

One of 42 agents covering Clallam and Jefferson counties, Sanchez’s claims likely were referred to Office of Special Counsel, Milne said.

“That’s generally where these types of complaints go,” he said.

Sanchez trained a national spotlight on the North Olympic Peninsula on July 29, 2011, when he made a lengthy statement at a forum put on by the Advisory Committee on Transparency, a project of the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation.

“During our work shifts, other agents and I always talked about how coming to work was like the black hole, swallowing us up slowly with no purpose, no mission,” Sanchez said.

The Border Patrol has come under criticism from some North Olympic Peninsula citizens for increasing its staffing more than tenfold since 2006, while other residents say they support the agency’s efforts.

Refused requests

The Border Patrol has refused repeated requests by the Peninsula Daily News — including those made under the Freedom of Information Act — for arrest totals for the Port Angeles station, which covers a territory that includes Clallam and Jefferson counties.

The Border Patrol’s Blaine Sector Office, which oversees the Port Angeles branch, releases brief details of selected arrests for Blaine, the north Puget Sound and the North Olympic Peninsula that do not include the names of those arrested — or their gender — and has cited national security concerns in refusing to release more detailed statistics.

Sanchez, who transferred from San Diego to Port Angeles in 2009, went public after he said he had a long-running feud with the Port Angeles station.

In his prepared statement before the transparency committee, Sanchez said he told supervisors that there was nothing for him to do and that “our station was misusing federal funds.”

He said he and his family, including his two daughters, were subjected to “ugly harassment” by federal officers that included staking out his house and following him and his family when he wasn’t working.

On Labor Day 2011, CNN reported that Sanchez had requested a transfer back to the southern border.

To read Sanchez’s statement to the Advisory Committee on Transparency, visit http://tinyurl.com/pdnborder1.

To watch Sanchez’s testimony on YouTube, visit http://tinyurl.com/8m4ys4m.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at [email protected]

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