April 3, 2009

An Open Letter to Janet Napolitano,
Secretary of Homeland Security,
Regarding One of the Top Candidates for CBP

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

I write this letter because Alan Bersin is rumored to be on a short list of people who seek to run the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. If I didn’t say anything against the possibility of him rising to such a position I would feel as though I was letting my fellow citizens down, especially in light of the faith that so many, like me, have placed in President Barack Obama.

Obama has declared before the world that he is about reaching across aisles, about collaborating, about listening, so that better minds can make the changes our country and, indeed, our world needs if our troubled times are to be turned around. His recent outreach to the Iranian people said volumes about how dedicated he is to working with others, no matter how different their ideals and ways of thinking might be compared to ours.

Well, whales will be dancing at the Apollo before Alan Bersin works in collaboration with anyone, before he listens to anybody, before he treats anybody with the human respect and understanding they need to feel satisfied that they’re contributing to the creation of a better world.

Oh, he’ll give you and Obama and any upper level person in the administration a smile that will sweep you off your feet. He’ll shake your hand in standard ways or like a soulbrother, whatever will make him seem like “the man.” He’ll say whatever needs to be said to impress but, Lordy, the people who work under him will face a level of humiliation and stress no well meaning human would deserve. There will be no “Yes ‘We’ Can” under his command. He’s the epitome of the cliche: His way or the highway.

As a principal when he was at the helm of San Diego City Schools I saw him dismiss people’s concerns and ideas as though he was trying to set a “Guinness record for ignoring people.”

At a meeting in my neighborhood at the beginning of his term he literally turned his back to Latino activist friends of mine because he didn’t “respect” them or their questions. That sure showed.

He took us principals on a yacht cruise around the harbor and before we had barely sailed he made it clear that parents would have very little to say regarding what happened in our schools. Wasn’t long before that was old news.

He demoted some principals for reasons never disclosed. Now that was his prerogative but some in that group were among the most outstanding educators on this planet, let alone San Diego City Schools.

I once made a statement at a meeting reacting to something he had said, nothing contentious, just a different slant - and when I was done he went on to the next agenda item as though I didn’t even exist. I had never experienced anything quite like that and I have sat at the back of a few buses.

I spent my entire career in the school system working to make it human and caring and respectful and child oriented and he, in his first moments on the job, blasted that kind of thinking to kingdom come. The school system, years later, still suffers from a lack of morale.

This will be your U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency if you select Alan Bersin to run it. It will be a sore thumb, an hypocrisy in an administration that is promoting hope and change.

As a native of Tucson, a “Sonoran” to my very core, I shiver at the thought that this man would have anything to do with the Arizona border. I don’t know who else is on your list but there has to be somebody available who will be tough on terrorists, who will “serve the American public with vigilance, integrity and professionalism” without going about it like the Godfather.

Ernie McCray

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