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Jaime Ramirez checks passports for the U.S. Customs & Border Protection in his native 5,000-person border town of Presidio, Texas. He also sits on the local city council, a nonpartisan position he has held since 2004. But after Ramirez won re-election last fall, the Border Protection told him to resign from the council or lose his job. His bosses claimed his council position created a conflict of interest, even though the Border Protection had given him permission to run the first time. “I couldn’t believe they were asking me to resign after letting me serve,” Ramirez says. Last week, Judge Gladys Kessler granted Ramirez, 43, a preliminary injunction on claims his First Amendment rights had been violated. “Why was it ethically permissible for Mr. Ramirez to serve . . . in 2004 but not at this time?” Kessler wrote. “The government offers no evidence of what problems, situations or concerns justify the change in policy.” Ramirez had voluntarily recused himself on the one issue cited between the city of Presidio and the Border Protection, she noted. Department of Homeland Security officials would not comment on the case, but Kessler’s opinion noted one key change in the agency’s policies last December. Decisions on conflicts of interest shifted from local field directors to a panel of three officials, including two lawyers, in Washington. “It would appear that the reversal in the Agency’s position is directly related to simple bureaucratic or managerial shifts” to people “who probably have little or no particular knowledge of local conditions,” she wrote.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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