Concerns continue about Border Patrol cutbacks

Article author: 
Chris McDaniel
Article publisher: 
Yuma Sun
Article date: 
14 April 2013
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

Although Customs and Border Protection officials have halted a proposed series of unpaid furloughs for Border Patrol agents, the union representing agents in the Yuma Sector is concerned such cuts will still be made in the future.

“As a Border Patrol agent, a component of CBP, and under (the Department of Homeland Security), we are getting the word that Border Patrol agents specifically are still going to see some type of cuts,” said Derek Hernandez, vice president of the western region of the National Border Patrol Council and president of Local 2595...

On March 7, CBP began officially releasing unpaid furlough notices to thousands of employees as a result of sequestration, a series of automatic federal budget cuts enacted on March 1 as part of an austerity fiscal policy.

The notice stated the furloughs, up to 14 days of mandatory unpaid time off for full-time employees, were scheduled to begin April 21 and end Sept. 30. The furloughs would have affected all 60,000 Border Patrol employees and taken up to 5,000 agents off the border. The furloughs were postponed on April 1...

Border Patrol agents currently work about 10-hour shifts. If AUO is eliminated, each agent would be reduced to about an eight-hour workday, Hernandez explained, noting the reduction in hours would reduce the time agents were able to spend patrolling the border.

“Our job is so unique. We don't report to our duty location once we hit the station. We have to check out our gear, the vehicle, then drive out to the particular location. Bottom line is the border would be less secure. We would have a hurry-up-and-rush mentality of get out there quick.”

Reduced hours would also mean less time for incoming agents to receive briefings from outgoing agents about possible drug smugglers or illegal immigrants [illegal aliens] passing through the area, Hernandez added. Without that information, he said, the agents would essentially be going into duty blind.

“...It is almost a new way of patrolling” that has never been done before...."

Hernandez calls on Congress to follow the money trail and to ensure transparency within CBP.

“Hold the leaders that we have accountable for the funds, not just (write) a piece of paper that says we are going to allocate for these particular areas. Really scrutinize the salary, the safeguards and the protection,” he said, because the bottom line is “you need boots on the ground. Let us do our job.”