Outreach to residents is a top priority of agent in charge

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PORT ANGELES — The new agent in charge at the Border Patrol’s Port Angeles station has made community outreach one of his top jobs.

On his first day on the job Jan. 23, Jay Cumbow met with members of Forks Human Rights Group, which has complained about heightened patrol activities against illegal immigrants on the Olympic Peninsula.

In an interview with the Peninsula Daily News, Cumbow said he’s eager to allay criticism.

Cumbow oversees a force that has grown from four Border Patrol agents in 2006 to 42 under the Department of Homeland Security. In April they are scheduled to move from the federal building in downtown Port Angeles to a headquarters remodeled at cost of nearly $6 million.

The agents are responsible for Clallam and Jefferson counties. Additional agents with the Office of Air and Marine operate out of Port of Port Angeles and other agents from the Office of Field Operations monitor the U.S. port of entry at the Port Angeles ferry dock. All three agencies operate under the administrative umbrella of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

One of the biggest critics of the Port Angeles Border Patrol is Agent Christian Sanchez, who last July told the Sunlight Foundation Advisory Committee on Transparency in Washington, D.C., that the station is an overstaffed “black hole” with “no purpose, no mission.” After he told supervisors there was little for him to do and that “our station was misusing federal funds,” he and his family were subjected to “ugly harassment” by federal officials, Sanchez said.

Sanchez is still working in Port Angeles, Border Patrol Blaine Sector spokesman Richard Sinks said Friday. That sector covers Alaska, Oregon and the western half of Washington state and has stations in Port Angeles, Blaine, Sumas and Bellingham.

Cumbow pledged to look into criticism of the Border Patrol. “I’ve got a whole lot of material to go through and a whole lot of people to talk to,” he said.

He also has met with Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict, who has questioned the size of the Border Patrol force. “He’s a wonderful guy who’s well-educated, and we’ll have a wonderful working relationship,” said Benedict.

“I still stand by the fact that I have questions about whether we truly need 60 or 70 agents,” the total of Border Patrol agents combined with Office of Air and Marine interdiction agents and Office of Field Operations agents.

Cumbow was an agent in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in South Texas before heading for Port Angeles, which he had never visited. His wife, Leila, is a Border Patrol agent in McAllen, Texas. She plans to join him and will work in the Blaine Sector, though not at the Port Angeles station, he said.