Many rank-and-file Border Patrol agents continue to think that the agency gets short shrift in both pay and manpower. In 1992, the Border Patrol had 4,200 agents patrolling 7,500 miles of border with Mexico and Canada. Today, there are 21,400 agents, the vast majority of whom are stationed along the Southwest border. Most of that growth occurred from 2001 to 2009 under President George W. Bush.
More than a dozen Border Patrol agents contacted by The Times, all of whom asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, think the agency has been singled out to bear the brunt of sequestration.
They noted that CBP proposed overtime cuts totaling $285 million, but the Border Patrol share of that amount is $248 million. Cuts for two other CBP agencies were listed at $35 million for the Office of Field Operations and $2 million for the Office of Air and Marine.
“One thing that should leap off the page is the enormous disparity of overtime cuts between the three components,” said the National Border Patrol Council in a statement.
While the Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations have about the same number of people, the patrol council said OFO is mandated to make up 6.4 percent of the budget cut while the Border Patrol “appears to be picking up the lion’s share of the tab” with 87 percent of the proposed cuts. The council, which represents all 17,000 of the agency’s nonsupervisory personnel, said CBP has historically targeted Border Patrol agents with pay reforms that single out the agents for huge pay reductions.
J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said Homeland Security singled out the Border Patrol for the largest financial penalty of any other group of federal workers. He said the furloughs and loss of overtime will reduce an agent’s paycheck by 35 percent — more than even civilian Defense Department workers who face 22 days without pay.
“Guarding the border is not a 9-to-5 job. Overtime work is routine, and when they are hired, agents are informed that they will almost never work a regular eight-hour shift,” he said. “Instead, they are expected to work at least 10 hours every day and often more because they do not stop when they are in pursuit of drug and gun smugglers and others engaging in criminal activity on the border.
“Mr. Cox called sequestration “good news for criminals and others who would enter our country illegally, but very bad news for Americans who rely on the courage and devotion of Border Patrol agents who risk their lives every day to keep drugs and guns and gangs outside our borders.”
Mr. Barnett does not want a return to the days when some of his ranch’s established trails were decimated with the trash left behind by illegal immigrants: “When you are actually out here on the line and see what’s happening firsthand, it is very frustrating.”