U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents have had their authority to detain illegal aliens reduced, some have been disarmed, and now they are seeing cuts in their paychecks.
All of this is taking a toll on morale, said one of the agents in an exclusive interview with WND.
A border agent in southeastern California said the issues with agent pay has to do with overtime polices. “We’re getting scrutinized like crazy for anything over eight hours,” he said.
The agent, whom WND agreed not to identify due to the possibility of retribution against him, said the frustration level was causing many agents in his unit, which includes about 200 officers, to look for work elsewhere.
Congress passed a reform law that will change the way Border Patrol agents are paid starting next year, leading to a pay cut for most agents under the new system.
“Most of us are pretty happy with the current system but the supervisors are not supposed to micromanage our overtime,” the agent told WND. “We’re getting contradictory messages from our supervisors.”
On the one hand agents are told they should not leave the field at the end of their shift if doing so would cause “a dereliction of duty.” On the other hand, when an agent provides an overtime justification citing a duty that had to be performed before he could leave for the day, the justification is more often than not denied, the agent said.
Most of agents have agreed to reduce their overtime just to “get the upper management off their backs,” he said.
And while agents in the field are expected to rein in their overtime, supervisors often aren’t held to the same standard, he said.
“This is just kind of the last straw,” he said. “The last couple of years here it’s been getting to the point where the criteria to actually send an illegal alien back to their country has just gotten to the point where it’s ridiculous.”
The reform package passed by Congress received the support of the border-agent union, but that shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement by rank and file members, the agent said.
“A lot of us just aren’t even real happy with our union,” he said. “The current system, we have our eight hours and anything after that is considered AUO or authorized uncontrollable overtime.
“If this reform goes through most of us are going to be mandated to stay 10 hours regardless of whether there’s any activity going on or not,” he said. “It depends on the sector.”
WND reported last month that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, was removing about half of the M4 carbine rifles from the hands of border agents, citing safety issues that needed to be corrected. But Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, wasn’t buying the excuse, saying the M4 was one of the most reliable weapons in the world.
‘They’re just being released’
That didn’t set well with agents. Nor does the recent changes to the policy of “voluntary return,” which is available only for Mexican nationals.
This policy “has been corrupted of late,” the agent said.
“Voluntary return is where if we catch them and ask if they agree to voluntarily return to Mexico in the next 24 hours or thereabouts, they can avoid being sent to a detention center and a court hearing,” he said. “They’ve basically taken that away from us and illegal Mexican aliens that used to qualify for the voluntary return program are now being processed to go to court.”
So they get put in a camp or holding facility, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement takes over from there.
“ICE has reduced their criteria on who they will hold in camp and many are just being released,” the agent told WND.
“Initially it sounded good, to basically eliminate the voluntary return program and send them to camp which would put them in front of a judge,” he said. “They would spend some time in camp, which is basically a jail, so they don’t make it into American communities. Ideally for most Mexican nationals it’s best for them to do a voluntary return. If they go to camp they could spend 30 to 60 days in detention before they see a judge, but now ICE is given discretion and if that alien doesn’t meet this new criteria we’re going to give them an OR (release on their own recognizance) and basically none are going to show up for court and they’re released back into our society.”
Overtime justifications that were acceptable just two months ago are no longer approved now, the agent said. And the smugglers are smart enough to recognize any change in policy. He said they quickly exploit any holes in the system.
“Due to this harassment by the supervisors, agents are just choosing to leave their patrol areas and head back to the station before the next shift arrives in the area,” the agent said. “The net result is that active smuggling routes and other critical areas are not receiving adequate coverage.”
Smugglers often target the “shift change” time frame to cross the border with illegal aliens and drugs, he said.
A Border Patrol agent questions a driver crossing into the U.S.
The Southeast California border station is relatively small, employing about 200 agents.
“If there isn’t a change soon, there will be a large exodus of agents leaving the Border Patrol and finding employment elsewhere,” the agent told WND.
The exodus may have already started.
“One guy in our station is quitting next week to become a sheriff’s deputy,” the agent said. “We had another guy switch over to Customs because they don’t get the same scrutiny we do. They get all kinds of overtime. The guys in blue, for whatever reason, get overtime but they bring in money so maybe that’s why they look the other way on their overtime.”
Another Border Patrol station near Ajo, south of Phoenix in western Arizona, has dozens of agents at any given time trying to switch over to Customs, the agent said.
“So they’re fed up as well,” he said. “Part of it