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Roundtable: Border Patrol Hiring; Guest Worker Program; Gregory Canyon; Plaza de Panama; Coastal Commission Sues Navy

Border Patrol Hiring, Training Questioned
Roundtable: Border Patrol Hiring; Guest Worker Program; Gregory Canyon; Plaza de Panama; Coastal Commission Sues Navy
GUESTSMitch Blacher, 10News Adrian Florido, KPBS Fronteras Desk Alison St. John, KPBS News Kelly Bennett, Voice of San Diego

Border Patrol Hiring, Training Questioned: A spate of recent violent incidents involving Border Patrol agents led to an on-going 10News investigation of the agency's practices.


Among their findings: pressure to quickly ramp up the size of the agency after 9/11 led to poor recruiting methods and relaxed hiring standards. 10 News also found a big lag-time in background checks of agents, some on the job for three years before being checked.

These factors, coupled with a no-fail policy, fewer classes and less physical training, have produced a Border Patrol that is indeed larger, but one where some armed federal agents are unqualified, sources told 10News.

One agent revealed he had seen sheriff's deputies arrest would-be agents on felony warrants and escort them off the training premises. Some agents have been called a “menace to society” by sources within the Border Patrol itself.

10News began looking into Border Patrol policies and training following the Chula Vista shooting of Valeria Tachiquin by BP Agent Justin Tackett in September, 2012. He shot her multiple times after being struck by her car. He was found to be unfit – “A law unto himself” -- in his previous job as a deputy with the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department.

Guest Worker Program Not Working: The U.S. farm lobby has made reforming the nation’s guest worker program a top priority. Reform is also a priority in San Diego, but farmers and workers disagree on how do implement it.


Many farmers in San Diego say they cannot get the seasonal, foreign workers they need to plant or harvest their crops, and domestic farm labor is getting scarcer.

The federal guest worker program, H-2A , in theory allows farmers to bring in as many temporary foreign workers as they need. But Eric Larson of the San Diego County Farm Bureau says only 1 farmer in the county uses it because it’s expensive and cumbersome in the extreme.

In addition, H2-A binds guest workers to the employer that hired them. They are not allowed to look for other work if they’re subjected to grueling production demands or mistreated. Some advocacy groups oppose any guest worker program because of abuse and displacement of local, older farm workers.

Gregory Canyon Is Not A Dump. Yet: For the last 20 years, debate has raged over whether to allow a privately owned landfill to be built in Gregory Canyon in the hills north of Escondido.

Environmental groups believe the landfill will contaminate the San Luis Rey River and aquifers. The Pala Band of Indians agrees and also objects to locating a dump on the flank of a sacred mountain.

Gregory Canyon Limited won voter support for the dump in 1994 and 2004 and has received approval by the county and the state. A big remaining hurdle is the Army Corps of Engineers, which monitors U.S. waterways and which held a public hearing on the project Thursday night.

Update: Navy, Manchester Sued Over Development: The California Coastal Commission considered the plans for the $1.2 billion development project at the foot of Broadway to be out of date in light of all the recent development downtown and heightened security concerns.

The commission waited a year for the Navy and developer Doug Manchester to revise its plans. This week it filed an injunction to “protect public access, recreation and views along the California Coast.” The lawsuit is expected to take at least a year.

Does Balboa Park Plan Violate City Law?: In a tentative ruling this week on the lawsuit filed by the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) against the Plaza De Panama project in Balboa Park, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor shot down part of the argument for the construction of the road around the Plaza de Panama, saying it violates city law.

The city argued that without the project (and funds from Irwin Jacobs) it would suffer economic hardship. But the city's contention that there would be no “reasonable, beneficial use of the property” without the road around the plaza, Taylor determined to be without merit.

There was a hearing on the ruling on Friday; a final decision is expected soon.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.