House Republican leaders have raised the prospect that a Border Patrol chief was the target of retaliation by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chief after the Border Patrol official sat for a transcribed interview with Congress.
Gregory K. Bovino, the chief patrol agent of the El Centro Border Patrol sector in California’s imperial valley, offered a transcribed interview with the House Oversight Committee and House Homeland Security Committee on July 12, 2023. According to Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.), within hours of finishing his testimony, Mr. Bovino was informed that he had been relieved of his command at the El Centro sector and “reassigned to a vague, indefinite, and temporary headquarters assignment.”
The timing of Mr. Bovino’s reassignment raised suspicions for Mr. Comer and Mr. Green that the CBP had reassigned the Border Patrol official in retaliation for his testimony.
In a letter to acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller, the two lawmakers shared allegations from a whistleblower that Mr. Bovino’s new assignment is “one of no certain mission, no articulable purpose, and without any timeline of completion.”
“The whistleblower further alleges that this practice is consistent with the way in which CBP officials have dealt with employees who they wish to leave the agency, by placing maximum pressure on them to relocate, retire, or resign,” the Republican lawmakers added.
Citing further whistleblower allegations, Mr. Comer and Mr. Green raised allegations “that Chief Bovino may have produced written testimony in preparation for this hearing that was dissatisfactory to CBP officials: so much so that he was verbally reprimanded by headquarters officials.”
The Republican lawmakers called on the acting CBP commissioner to provide answers about the reassignment. The lawmakers specifically asked for all CBP documents and communications relating to Mr. Bovino’s employment. They also asked for records of any discussions between CBP and Department of Homeland Security or White House officials pertaining to Mr. Bovino’s past congressional testimony or appearances as a witness for transcribed interviews.
The lawmakers further called upon Mr. Miller to be ready to brief House committee staff on this issue by July 28 at the latest.
NTD News reached out to CBP for comment but the agency did not respond by the time this article was published.
According to a CBP statement obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. Bovino was previously reassigned to a headquarters position in 2021, and his subordinates ‘did an excellent job’ handling the El Centro border sector while he was gone. The CBP also claimed it’s dealing with a broader reorganization effort after the overall U.S. Border Patrol chief, Raul Ortiz, retired in June.
Border Patrol Chiefs Previously Blocked From Speaking to Congress
Mr. Bovino was one of several Border Patrol sector chiefs who were invited to testify at a House Oversight Committee hearing earlier this year, but Mr. Comer accused Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of blocking some of the Border Patrol officials from doing so. Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol Chief Gloria Chavez and Tucson Sector Chief John Modlin did testify, but Mr. Bovino and others did not appear for the hearing.
“It is unfortunate that you are trying to prevent the American people from hearing candid and truthful testimony of U.S. Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agents,” Mr. Comer wrote in a Jan. 27 letter (pdf) to Mr. Mayorkas. “This is necessary oversight, which you and your Department are attempting to block.”
After Mr. Bovino and other Border Patrol officials were blocked from attending the Feb. 7 hearing, Mr. Comer sent a letter (pdf) to Mr. Miller, requesting that he help facilitate interview times for Mr. Bovino and the other Border Patrol officials. Mr. Bovino’s July 12 transcribed interview was the culmination of this earlier effort to get him to talk to members of Congress.