October 29, 2009
Contact: Michelle Mittelstadt
WASHINGTON — Migration Policy Institute Senior Fellows Doris Meissner and James Ziglar, both former Commissioners of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, issued the following joint statement on the death this week of Gus De La Viña, the retired Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol:
"We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of our friend and former colleague Gus De La Viña. Our sympathies go out to his wife Donna, his family and his extended family, the U.S. Border Patrol. Gus was a rock in a sometimes stormy sea. His leadership skills, his courage, his integrity and his loyalty were always on display for those of us who had the privilege to work with him. Gus ably represented the long and proud tradition of the U.S. Border Patrol.
"Gus served during some of the most difficult moments in recent history, including the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Within hours of the attacks, Gus volunteered to send Border Patrol agents to provide additional, visible security at many airports. That decision, which provided greater comfort to the traveling public, was just one of countless acts in a career that exemplified the true meaning of public service.
"Gus grew up on the southwest border and understood its special character and terrain like the back of his hand. Traveling the border with him meant meeting not only with Border Patrol agents and leaders, but with local officials, community groups and Mexican counterparts. He recognized that border enforcement is a central feature in the life of border regions and needs to be accountable to many different actors and cross-currents. He did it so effectively that he was selected to receive the Presidential Rank Award, the most prestigious award that can be granted to career senior civil servants for exemplary service.
"His was a steady hand on the tiller, bringing a sense of balance and calm amidst sometimes chaotic situations at our borders. Gus worked seamlessly with Democrats and Republicans and always in the best interest of the American people. We revere his memory and we celebrate the life of a true American patriot."
Doris Meissner was INS Commissioner under President Bill Clinton and James Ziglar served as Commissioner during the George W. Bush administration.
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels.