Tag Archives: port director

My first port director—my friend and my mentor . . .

I began my career with U.S. Customs as a GS-7 trainee at the port of Progreso, Texas and I was upgraded to the GS-9 journeyman position after one year. During that year I learned more from one officer at the port than from all the others combined. Not that they didn’t help me learn the ins and outs of the job—they were very helpful, but the port director and I became a team, both professionally and personally. Almost from the beginning we were like brothers, respectful of each other and each always looking out for the other’s back.

As a measure of how well the port director taught me, I was awarded an in-grade pay increase in my second year and another in my third year, both based on my duty performance, particularly on my arrest and seizure record. An in-grade pay increase is a pay raise given for outstanding performance, and is in addition to the normal longevity raises given to federal employees based purely on successful duty performances. In-grade pay increases are the gifts that keep on giving!

Some ten years older than I, the port director took me under his wing like a mother hen protects a chick—figuratively, of course. He placed me on the right path for success in my new profession and set me straight when I strayed from that path. He raised hell when I made mistakes, and he lauded me when I managed to do something right, such as making seizures and accurately documenting our various Customs activities. I also was brash enough to submit several suggestions that I felt would improve port operations, and upper headquarters felt impelled to implement my suggestions and provide remuneration for my ideas. How about that!

His most recent assignment was at the port of Eagle Pass, almost 300 miles upriver from Progreso. In the latter part of 1971 Progreso became a separate port from the port of Hidalgo, and he was promoted to the position of port director for the new port. His name was Paul, and he died at Christmas time in 1973. His cancer disease was diagnosed in mid-1972 and a scant eighteen months later he was dead.

Paul, my first port director and supervisor in Customs—my friend and my mentor—was buried in Brownsville, Texas some fifty miles distant from Progreso. I was unavoidably delayed at the port and the casket was closed when I arrived at the funeral home. The funeral director offered to open the casket for my viewing but I declined the offer. I figured that Paul had once again been promoted and was already on the way to his next assignment, that shining port in the hereafter, and I was reluctant to slow him down.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


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Brownsville Customs assignment . . .

Before I begin this dissertation, please allow me to digress with an explanation of supervisory titles in the US Custom Service. A first level supervisor is equivalent to a captain in the military, equal in pay and responsibilities, and wears the twin silver bars of a captain in the military. A second level supervisor is equivalent to a major in the military and wears gold oak leaves on the uniform. Chief inspectors and port directors are usually the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the military and wear silver maple leaves when in uniform. Many Customs port directors have higher grades and have the option of wearing uniforms or civilian garb—most opt for civilian dress.

Program officers at Headquarters also have the pay and similar responsibilities of lieutenant colonels in the military, and unless involved in some field action requiring the uniform, normally wear civilian garb. The pay and responsibilities of program managers at headquarters are also similar to the duties and responsibilities of a full colonel in the military. The comparisons to military personnel continue up to the pay and responsibilities equal to the grade of a four-star general.

During my 26-year career in federal law enforcement I had the misfortune—oops, I meant the good fortune—of serving US Customs for several years at the Brownsville, Texas port of entry located at the tip of Texas, opposite the city of Matamoros, Mexico. I began my career at the port of Progreso and I was promoted to a first level supervisory position at the port of Roma. After two and one-half years there I was again promoted and transferred to the port of Brownsville, Texas some 125 miles down river from Roma. Click here for a posting on Progreso.

My position at Brownsville was that of a second level supervisor, one of two such officers responsible for supervising a staff of three administrative persons, six first level supervisors and a staff of sixty senior, journeyman and trainee inspectors. I performed my duties under the watchful eyes of the chief inspector and a racially and professionally biased port director, and I was the favorite target for any person that lodged a complaint against management, regardless of the source.  Those activities were dictated and urged on by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). Near the end of my tour at Brownsville, the Chief Inspector left my side and joined in the target practice.

A friendly journeyman told me that NTEU had directed the local Union Steward to have every grievance addressed to me, regardless of the supervisor involved—I was one of nine supervisors, yet all complaints came to me to be investigated and the results forwarded to upper levels including national headquarters, whether resolved or unresolved. The same friendly inspector said that every meeting of the Union members, whether locally or at District or Regional Headquarters, began with a request for input on me and on my actions.

Just as an aside, the Port Director and the Chief Inspector have since been arbitrarily transferred to that shining Port of Entry in the sky—a headquarters directed assignment, so to speak—and one may be reasonably certain that a significant number of the journeyman inspectors have joined them—some were quite advanced in age, and I left Brownsville 27 years ago. I can truthfully say that at this stage of life I hold no rancor for any of them—well, okay, perhaps a trace of rancor for the Port Director!

In spite of the onslaught of arrows (employee complaints) fired at me, none struck a vital organ. To paraphrase William Faulkner in his acceptance speech in 1950 for the Nobel Prize in literature, I did not merely endure—I prevailed. My actions and my decisions were upheld by mid-level and top-level management in every instance. The grievances filed numbered in the hundreds—none was resolved in favor of the complainant, neither by me nor by someone in the upper echelons. Most of the grievances stemmed from my efforts to reduce inspector overtime in accordance with instructions from upper level management given to me prior to assuming my duties there. Misuse of overtime was rife at that location, and my success was in inverse proportion to the number of grievances—as overtime declined, grievances increased.

The pay was good and there was no heavy lifting, so I stalwartly bided my time. I successfully withstood the onslaught for three and one-half years, from April of 1980 to October of 1983, and once again was promoted and transferred to US Customs Headquarters in Washington, DC as a program officer. Halfway through my three year tour in Washington I was assigned the title and assumed the duties of Program Manager for Customs’ National Canine Enforcement Program, and therein lies some tales to be told. Click here for an example of my duties, a tour of canine operations in California. This is just a teaser with more stories to follow, so stay tuned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in bridge, law enforcement, Military


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A surgical solution to illegal immigration . . .

Our land border with Mexico cannot be closed.

The military could link hands from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California and the line would not slow the illegal entries. They will go under, over, through or around any barrier constructed, living or otherwise, by land, sea and air, and through tunnels.

Anyone who has lived or worked on the border for any significant length of time knows the border cannot be closed. I worked on the Texas-Mexico border for 12 years, with extended assignments at three land border ports as a Customs inspector trainee, journeyman and supervisor, and in a three-year stint at Customs Headquarters I covered every port on the Mexican border (also most international airports, seaports and land crossings on our border with Canada).

I know the border cannot be closed.

Bill O’Reilly at Fox News believes the border can be closed. He’s wrong—the border cannot be closed (he hasn’t asked me about this, but I would be glad to brief him).

I began my 26-year career with the United States Customs Service at the international border crossing in Progreso, a small town in the Rio Grande Valley a few miles south of Weslaco, Texas. The port director at Progreso had, in my opinion, a sure-fire way to dry up the flood of illegal immigrants—such persons have historically been called wet-backs, a highly descriptive term that has fallen prey to the current atmosphere of political correctness. I plan to discuss the term in a subsequent posting.

The then-port director at Progreso suggested that, regardless of nationality or country of origin, one finger be removed from the illegal immigrant the first time he (or she) is intercepted, then return him (or her) to Mexico, and remove another finger if that person is again intercepted entering our country illegally. If adopted, his suggestion would result in numerous nine-fingered illegals, significantly fewer eight-fingered, and virtually none with only seven fingers.

My only suggestion to his plan at that time was to remove the middle finger of one hand for the first offense and the middle finger of the other hand for the second offense, then another finger for the next illegal crossing, etc., etc. My rationale for that sequence was, of course, intended to prevent the offender from flipping the bird at any US federal officer in any future encounter. This led to the development of Operation FRET (Finger Removal Each Time).

I have since fleshed out my plan to control unauthorized immigration, and have also developed a plan to prevent members of Congress from growing old and rich in the “service” of their country. To that end I offer the following concepts: Operation FRET to control illegal immigration, and Operation OFFER to clear out some, perhaps most, of the deadwood in our Senate and our House of Representatives. Operation OFFER, over time, might even clear out all the deadwood and ensure that none of it reappears in Congress.

Operation FRET (Finger Removal Each Time) should not be confused with the acronym for fluorescence resonance energy transfer, a condition related to fluorescent lighting. Operation FRET is my term for a system that, if properly applied, could staunch the flow of unauthorized entries across our national borders. The system is suggested to control entries from Mexico, but to avoid any semblance of bias it should probably be instituted along our northern border as well, and for consistency the system must apply to illegal entries at any point in the nation, whether by land, sea or air.

Operation OFFER (One Finger For Each Re-election) is recommended initially for elections to our Senate and our House of Representatives, but the concept can be applied effectively to lesser elections, ranging from local school boards up to gubernatorial races. I would oppose any suggestion to make Operation OFFEE retroactive for sitting electees—now that would really be cruel!

I would also oppose any suggestion to extend Operation OFFEE to the highest elected office in the land—that worthy needs more fingers, not fewer, to accomplish his complex duties and responsibilities. Besides, any hint of such a suggestion, whether satire or otherwise, would bring down on the suggester the accumulative weight and heat of every national, state and local law enforcement agency.

A fellow blogger made these comments on my suggestion concerning digit removals for illegal immigrants, and his comments inspired me to develop Operation OFFER:

I think your immigration penalty may be a tad cruel.

Could we, however, use it for membership in Congress?

Yes, we can! (I must admit that I pilfered that slogan from the 2008 presidential campaign). If the OFFER concept (One Finger Removal Each Re-election) became law, it’s doubtful that we would ever have more than a handful (so to speak) of nine-fingered senators or representatives, even fewer with only eight fingers and probably none with three fingers missing. I assume the writer meant to remove one finger on the initial election to Congress, whether to the Senate or to the House of Representatives, and the second on the first re-election, etc. And I also assume the same sequence (middle fingers first) would apply to the members of Congress. However, I feel that the system should apply to re-elections only. Under Operation FRET, the illegal immigrant has broken federal law, while the first term electee to Congress has broken no laws. Operation OFFER would ensure that no senator or representative would serve more than one term unless, of course, they would be willing to sacrifice a digit in order to remain on the federal dole and continue feathering their nest—not likely, that.

It is doubtful that the law could be made retroactive, principally because many of the senators and representatives would be minus all fingers as well as both thumbs. And there is actually the possibility, albeit it very remote, that reelections to the Senate and the House of Representatives would be eliminated—one can only dream.

I would oppose any suggestion to make Operation OFFER retroactive for sitting electees—now that would really be cruel! I would also oppose any suggestion to extend Operation OFFER to the highest elected office in the land—that worthy needs more fingers, not fewer, to accomplish his complex duties and responsibilities. And any such suggestion, whether satire or otherwise,  would bring down on the suggester the accumulative weight and heat of every national, state and local law enforcement agency in the nation.

A special note for anyone who peruses (reads) this posting and believes it, or is repulsed by it, or considers it cruel and un-American:

Hey, lighten up!

This is satire and nothing more—no investigation by the AFRC (Anti-Finger-Removal Czar) is needed, nor do we need a BOLO for international border crossers with fingers missing from either hand, specifically middle fingers.

Our newspapers, novels, movies and television presentations are saturated with crime reports, either true or fictional, so everyone should know the meaning of BOLO. However, this explanation is provided for the edification (enlightenment) of the three persons (estimated) in our population of 330 million (estimated) that do not know:

BOLO is an acronym for Be On Look Out (for). Don’t you just abhor (hate) it when someone uses a word, whether verbal (spoken) or written, then immediately defines (explains) it in the belief that the reader lacks eruditeness (having great knowledge) and won’t know the word’s meaning?

I also hate it when someone does that, whether speaking or writing.

I completely understand, and I feel your pain.

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Posted by on January 10, 2010 in Humor, law enforcement, politics


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