Starting tomorrow expect to see a constant stream of Press Releases from the Border Patrol Union AFGE detailing how Sequestering will decimate the Border Patrol's effectiveness.
The key is to get the public to understand that beyond the 14 furloughed days (roughly a 10% salary cut) overtime is also being eliminated. Union representatives estimate, and management generally confirms, that this will result in about a 40% reduction in take home pay for Border Patrol Agents.
Forceful reaction from the Border Patrol Union representatives were only delayed because, coincidentally, today was their national election
AFGE Local 2544 posted this announcement on their website
Local 2544 officers have met with Congressman Ron Barber, Senator John McCain, Governor Jan Brewer and Delaware Senator Tom Carper in the last two weeks to express our views and concerns. We recently met with NBPC officers, and we have continued to relay the concerns presented to us by our Local members, but there is an NBPC election on Sunday and we dont know what changes in leadership will take place after that election. We will know by late Sunday afternoon who the new NBPC officers will be.
There are numerous issues that are involved here but there is little question that Border Patrol agents will be carrying an unfair burden of the cuts and that there absolutely will be an impact on border security.
To understand the improvement in San Diego/Rio Grande border with Mexico it is necessary to understand the cat and mouse back and forth that is part of the strategic calculations that the DHS and Mexican Cartel go through on a daily and hourly basis. Most Americans think that the border will be secured with a simple fence. The fence is the Cartel's best friend. While the fence is needed and effective in urban areas where there are lots of activity on the American side of the border (San Diego, Calexico, Yuma, El Paso and Laredo) it's effectiveness outside of those areas is limited and becomes non existent in the more remote areas altogether.
The reasons that the Cartel loves the fence and would love to see it expanded is that they have effective methods of mitigating a stationary structure while amateur drug and human smugglers don't have.
In addition to significant increases in Border Patrol Agent manpower in populated sectors (San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, Tucson and El Paso) during both the Bush and Obama administration there has not been any increases in the Laredo area in the vast underpopulated area stretching hundreds of miles from Del Rio, Eagles Pass, Laredo and south of Laredo (this will become more significant as explained later).
Changes in the nature of border crossers
The single most significant change in the whole border security matrix under the Obama administration is the radical change in utilizing ICE enforcement to people that are here illegally. Under the Bush administration ICE branches became independent franchises where local managers launched vast blind sweeps trying to catch large numbers of non criminal undocumented workers. This disrupted tens of thousands of ordinary hard working employees and their families and created a climate of fear through out Hispanic neighborhoods. Here is an example of one sweep in San Bernardino CA
At 5:15 a.m. on August 30, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents converged at a supermarket parking lot in Maywood, California. Armed and wearing bulletproof vests, they looked through a list of the names and addresses of targeted people before descending upon homes and apartment complexes in the neighborhoods where so-called criminal aliens live. This was one of many raids that have taken place throughout Southern California in the past two weeks.
In total 1,200 people have been detained in these massive raids, and at least 600 of those arrested have already been deported. ICE boasts that this is the largest operation they have conducted in the U.S. so far. Most of the arrests took place in Los Angeleswith many people also being picked up in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura County.
Such raids were very popular among reactionary sectors of the Republican Party but were not only damaging to the innocent families involved but drained law enforcement resources from real criminal enforcement.
The Obama administration quickly restructured ICE investigation and eliminated sweeps for ordinary undocumented workers and directed ICE to target violent criminal felons instead. Here is an example of an Obama sweep in San Bernardino:
LOS ANGELES (CBS) More than 200 illegal immigrants in the Los Angeles area were arrested in a national immigration sweep, the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement said Monday.
ICE had more than 1,900 officers bring in a total of 3,100 people described as convicted criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators as part of a six-day national Cross Check enforcement operation.
. . .
Those arrested in the Los Angeles area include Veasna Uy, 34, a Cambodia national immigration fugitive living in Long Beach, who was convicted in April 2000 of manslaughter, attempted murder and assault of a deadly weapon. ICE agents also arrested a twice deported Mexican National living in Bell with two prior convictions of narcotics for sale and a Salvadoran national living in North Hollywood who was convicted of arson in 1994.
In addition to ICE investigations and sweeps ICE has positioned officers at prisons and jails to identify felons who are illegal immigrants and deport them. As a result there has been a sharp increase in gang and violent criminals being returned to Mexico, and Central America.
This has changed the mix of the kind of people that the Border Patrol catches. A decade ago the ratio of violent criminal predator to normal economic migrant might have been 1 to 12, meaning that if they caught 12 border crossers one could have been classified as a certifiable bad guy that was involved in criminal activity. As the border has gotten harder to cross there has been a drop in migrants here going home and risking a trip back, a decline in people willing to chance a dangerous trip and an increase of those violent criminals who have been deported trying to get back.
The result is that the ratio (admittedly unscientific but generally accepted by Border Patrol Agents I talk with in different sectors) has dropped from 1 in 12 to something like 1 in 4.
How eliminating overtime affects Border Patrol effectiveness
By eliminating (or technically 'de certifying' AUO- Automatic Unauthorized Overtime) it means that Border Patrol Agents cannot get paid when they are involved in pursuits that exceed their authorized 8 hour shift.
Currently Border Patrol Agents work 10 hour shifts that include 2 hours automatic overtime. Overtime allows the Border Patrol operational flexibility to respond to movements by the Cartel. Once the fence was established the Cartel could simply find isolated areas and throw contraband over the fence, or in human trafficking, jump the fence. By expanding sensors the Border Patrol would respond to movements. The Cartel responds by putting across alto of foot traffic in one part of the sector to draw attention (and then have the decoys jump back to Mexico) and then put across the real load in a remote part on the other side of the sector.
Once the elimination of overtime is instituted this flexibility will be lost. This will open easy to decipher holes for the Cartels to exploit.
The situation is exacerbated in remote areas. Currently if you are in a remote area you may travel one hour from your home to your report in station. After attending a 20 minute muster you might drive 70 minutes to a remote post. This means that in a 10 hour shift only about 7 hours are spent in the field (1 1/2 hours lost each way). By limiting the Border Patrol to 8 hours that reduces field time to only 5 hours.
This will create significant gaps between shifts. Cartel operations are able to monitor shift changes and traffic by simple observation posts in residential areas near by stations.
There is no question that elimination of the AUO overtime will have a significant impact on Border Patrol effectiveness. This comes at a time when the volume of migrants has dropped significantly the efforts of violent felons who have already been deported and attempt to return have increased.
Exploiting Border Patrol Agents
Border Patrol Agents have the most dangerous law enforcement job in the Federal Government. In 2012 5 agents died in Arizona alone, 2 killed in a collision with a train, 1 shot by friendly fire, 1 committed suicide, 1 natural causes. Since I have begun interviewing BP agents in large numbers (over 500) since 2009 I have found almost none fit the 'Chuck Norris' image that I, and I think that most people have. Given that 40% of new hires are from Hispanic backgrounds I have found the bulk to be much closer to a George Lopez type.
For those that are recruited from the area the furlough days and loss of overtime will mean about a 40% loss of pay. There will be agents who, if this is prolonged, will go deeply in debt and in some cases lose their homes.
I think of the single father in El Centro who is raising 3 children and whose income will fall from about $ 52,000 to $ 38,000. That will mean that his take home pay will be around $ 2,500 a month.
For those that have been recruited from other areas like New York or Ohio and have relocated the impact will be much greater. The only reason that they have agreed to live in such inhospitable areas (and many of the areas are extremely inhospitable) is that the total package could reach about $ 80,000 after 5 years. For many couples that has not turned out to be as good a deal as they thought because they did not calculate that the spouse would be unable to get a job in those areas. So they have gone from a two income family making around $ 100,000 to a single income family making $ 80,000 (after 5 years) to a single income family making $ 55,000.
Elimination of AUO for the Border Patrol will not only impact Border Patrol effectiveness but is also a betrayal to those who have one of the most dangerous law enforcement jobs in the US.
For these reasons you should expect, starting tomorrow, a well organized effort by the newly elected leaders of the AFGE Border Patrol union to educate the American public on how sequestering is going to effect border security and Border Patrol Agents.
Effects on Customs
The elimination of AUO will also have an impact on busy Ports of Entry and Customs Agents.
The most obvious result will be that busy ports like San Ysidro (San Diego - busiest POE in the world) will likely have wait times stretch to 4 hours.
It will mean that there are fewer officers to conduct secondary inspections so less interdictions should be expected.
The unfairness issue is the same as explained to Border Patrol agents above.
For ICE the impact will not be as great in most cases but there may be some areas, like gang surveillance in urban areas that will be impacted.
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