House Republicans on the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees are investigating whistleblower claims that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may have retaliated against a top Border Patrol official after he testified to both committees — a claim the agency called “blatantly false.”
“We write with deep concern that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials may have retaliated against a witness in a congressional investigation,” Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green, R-Tenn., said in a letter to Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller.
Lawmakers say. They received an allegation regarding El Centro Border Patrol Sector Chief Gregory Bovino. The whistleblower claims that after Bovino finished a transcribed interview with the committees on July 12, he was “relieved of his command at El Centro Sector and reassigned to a vague, indefinite and temporary headquarters assignment.”
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“The whistleblower indicates that this pattern is consistent with a common CBP practice by high-level officials to get rid of these employees by forcing them to relocate, retire or resign out of frustration,” Comer and Green said in the letter. “Given the suspicious timing of the reassignment consistent with Chief Bovino’s cooperation with the congressional inquiry, we request that CBP account for the current status of Chief Bovino’s employment and assignment within the U.S. Border Patrol, provide documents and communications related to any reassignment and the reasons for any related employment action on the matter, and brief the Committee on the matter.”
According to the whistleblower, this was not the first time Bovino had troubled the authorities. In January, Comer invited Bovino to testify, but was denied. The whistleblower claims he provided testimony that was “unsatisfactory” to CBP officials, and for which he was verbally reprimanded by leadership, the letter states.
After the July 12 interview, lawmakers said Bovino was immediately informed by a senior Border Patrol official that “he has been immediately relieved of command of the El Centro Sector and will thereafter report to CBP headquarters in Washington, D.C., for a temporary duty assignment of an unspecified nature and duration.”
“The whistleblower describes this temporary assignment with no specific mission, no notable objective, and no timeline for completion,” wrote Comer and Green.
In their letter to Miller, Comer and Green warned that they would not tolerate any retaliation against congressional witnesses.
The number of immigrants dropped sharply in June as the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 strategy took shape.
“Any retaliation against witnesses who cooperate with congressional inquiries will not be tolerated, especially when the retaliation is perpetrated by government officials.
However, the CBP denied whistleblower claims of retaliation.
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A CBP spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement that the allegation is patently false. “This temporary personnel assignment is completely unrelated to any congressional testimony or appearance, and was in place prior to the chief’s transcribed interview.”
CBP says it is constantly evaluating needs and resources, including personnel, to position the agency to carry out its mission. Additionally, other sector heads are also temporarily assigned to headquarters in Washington, reflecting ongoing operational requirements.
Bovino’s reassignment also comes amid a major change in leadership at the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as the agencies deal with the ongoing crisis at the southern border — and implement major changes to coincide with the May 11 expiration of the Title 42 public health order.
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Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz retired at the end of June and was replaced by Jason Owens, Chief of the Border Patrol for the Del Rio Sector. The agency also announced that Acting Deputy Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Benjamin “Kerry” Huffman will retire and be replaced by Pete Flores, Executive Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Field Operations. Meanwhile, the Yuma and San Diego sectors have also seen new chief patrol agents. The agency also highlighted that Bovino was previously detailed to CBP headquarters in 2021.
Beyond CBP, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tae Johnson retired and was replaced by Patrick Lechleitner. At DHS, Deputy Secretary John Tyne was replaced by Acting Secretary Kristi Caneglou.
Comer and Green, in their letter to Miller, are requesting all documents and communications related to Bovino’s employment and his appearance as a witness. They also want a briefing before July 28.