As President Trump threatens a government shutdown over funding for his border wall, one U.S. Border Patrol agent offered some insight on the immediate impact shuttering the government will have, not only on agents’ paychecks but on border security in general.
“Long story short, shutting down the government means fewer border patrol agents in the field,” the agent, who spoke to Yahoo News on the condition of anonymity, said in a telephone interview. “Fewer agents in the field means less border security. I am sure you see the irony here.”
In the event of a shutdown, essential personnel (i.e. border agents) are required to work without pay, while nonessential employees — “the people who do payroll, intel analysts, human resources, executive assistants, vehicle maintenance, etc.” — are furloughed, the agent said. Despite the nonessential label, the agent added, “the agency can’t effectively operate without those people in place, so during a shutdown, uniformed agents are moved into some of those positions. Which can have a huge effect on operations.”
President Trump announced Thursday that he would veto a stopgap spending bill to avoid shutting down the government unless the measure included billions of dollars for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I’ve made my position very clear. Any measure that funds the government must include border security,” Trump said at the White House Thursday, repeating what has recently become the mantra of Department of Homeland Security officials: “Walls work, whether we like it or not. They work better than anything.”
Despite the passage of a spending bill Thursday night in the House that included $5.7 billion for increased border security that could be applied to construction of a wall, Republicans did not appear to have the votes necessary in the Senate to send the measure to the president’s desk before a midnight deadline to keep the government open.
“If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time,” Trump tweeted Friday.
That is unwelcome news for government employees working on the border, but because of the politics involved, the agent declined to comment on the specific actions of Trump. But in general, he said, shutdowns can take a toll on agents’ morale, especially if they last more than a few days.
“Agents feel like no one cares that they aren’t being paid, or that no one cares about the mission,” he said.
“The agency is always going to figure out a way to work around the shutdown,” he continued, “but there is a real, tangible, immediate effect on border patrol operations.”
Asked for his thoughts on the effectiveness and necessity of a border wall, the basis of the potential shutdown fight, the agent said simply, “A wall is just a wall. True security is more nuanced and complex than any single piece of infrastructure.”
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