Thousands of Border Patrol agents could be fired over failing to meet President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees, Arizona’s attorney general warned in a new letter calling on the administration to relax its unprecedented shots-or-else approach.
Mark Brnovich, the state’s Republican attorney general, said it is a calamitous time to shed agents amid the record surge of migrants being caught trying to cross the border illegally.
“My office is aware of thousands of Border Patrol agents that are at risk of being fired if they do not succumb to your unlawful, immoral COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the near future,” Mr. Brnovich wrote to Mr. Biden on Monday. “The loss of hundreds — if not thousands — of Border Patrol agents would be catastrophic to this vital agency.”
Customs and Border Protection said it is “laser-focused on vaccinating” its workforce but doesn’t know final numbers.
“Like other federal agencies, we are continuing to collect vaccination information from employees as we approach the deadline,” the agency said in a statement.
Mr. Brnovich, in his letter, accused Mr. Biden of taking a hostile approach to agents, pointing to the president’s quick condemnation of agents on horseback shown in photos from September corralling migrant Haitians in Del Rio, Texas.
One photo was interpreted by immigrant-rights advocates to show an agent slashing his reins at a migrant. Both the Border Patrol chief and a photographer involved in capturing images of the event said no whipping took place, and the agent was instead trying to maintain control of his mount.
But Mr. Biden blasted the agents involved nonetheless, calling it “outrageous.”
“I promise you, those people will pay,” he vowed.
That sort of prejudicial tough talk may have soured the investigation that Homeland Security ordered into the incident. Results of the investigation are already weeks late.
Mr. Brnovich called Mr. Biden’s actions a “horrific abandonment of our Border Patrol.”
Even as Mr. Brnovich worries about the vaccine mandate on the Border Patrol, Republicans in Congress say the mandate could wreck the ranks of the Transportation Security Administration, another Homeland Security agency.