Politics & Policy

Border Agents’ Hours Cut Despite Border Crisis

(John Moore/Getty Images)
Border patrol agents frustrated by cuts to overtime.

Some Border Patrol agents have been told to work fewer hours since the  influx of Central American children at the border began a few months ago, sources tell National Review Online.  

While agents in the Rio Grande Valley are working six days per week, Shawn Moran, vice president at-large of the AFL-CIO-affiliated National Border Patrol Council, tells NRO some Border Patrol stations have had reductions since the border crisis began. Moran says he does not know which stations have seen reductions, but he does not think any of the reductions came as a result of the crisis.

Spokesmen from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency referred NRO​ to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS officials did not immediately return requests for comment.

Former national deputy chief of Border Patrol Ronald Colburn tells NRO the Obama administration is systematically implementing a liberal approach to illegal immigration that is “starving” Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol officials’ operations.

“It’s ironic that over the past decade we’ve doubled the staffing levels of sworn uniformed armed officer personnel, yet we now find them with their sleeves rolled up repairing vehicles, processing paperwork, answering phones, changing diapers, mixing formulas, playing badminton with children—they’re doing anything except patrolling the border,” says Colburn, who has just returned from a trip to the processing center at the Nogales Border Patrol Station in Tucson, Arizona. “And [it’s] contrary to their own mission, but it’s out of their hands.”

Colburn is a veteran with more than 30 years’ experience working in U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He has served as the director of law enforcement on the White House Homeland Security Council. Colburn tells NRO one Border Patrol agent working in CBP’s intelligence division at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters called him to complain about a letter informing the agent his hours would be cut. “We’re cutting 20 percent of your pay, don’t work over eight hours a day, and don’t work holidays, don’t work nights, and don’t work weekends,” he characterized the letter as saying.

Colburn says this agent was called into work in Washington the previous Saturday because the computers went down and someone was needed to oversee the people fixing the “very sensitive” intelligence program. Colburn says the agent then asked him, “Now that I’ve gotten the letter, does that mean next week when [the computer system] goes down and they call me I should sit there on my cell phone and negotiate whether or not they’re going to compensate me for it since I’ve already worked my 40 hour work week?” In the past the agent would just go in, Colburn says, but now he’s been told not to come in on weekends.

It’s not just agents in Washington who are disgruntled,  Colburn says. While federal law-enforcement jobs are fun, exciting, and well paid, he says, agents’ attitudes change when they are told their services are being limited. One Border Patrol agent from Laredo, Texas, told Fox News that Border Patrol’s “morale is at a very low level” and said the federal government is naïve to think the nation’s border is secure.

Regarding the influx of Central Americans, Colburn says, “We’ve been through this before.” He points out that in 1989, the United States experienced a flood of immigrants from Central and South America. “We dealt with it by increasing resources down there [at the border], but also by bringing consequences to it, in other words, putting people in jail,” he says.

When he learned of President Obama’s request to Congress for approximately $3.8 billion to address the border crisis, Colburn says he thought of what Border Patrol could have done if it had received that much money in the first place. Now he says it’s “almost too late” because “the barn door is open, cows are in the garden.” Colburn says he’d give this administration an F grade for its handling of the border crisis.

“I think the administration has not just failed the American people, but failed the people that serve them and risk their lives daily and nightly on the line,” he says. “It’s a sad situation to see knowing how hard we’ve worked all these years to make such gains, only to see reversals.”    

— Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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