U.S. Border Patrol agents in Laredo, Texas, met with their newly appointed chief to brief him on working conditions and morale of the agents working the busy sector.
Representatives of National Border Patrol Council Local 2455 briefed the new chief. The local union represents the Laredo Sector, the fourth busiest sector along the southwest border regarding total apprehensions this fiscal year.
Agent Hector Garza, acting in his capacity as president of Local 2455, spoke with Breitbart Texas on Tuesday about the meeting with Chief Vitiello.
“He wanted to hear directly from us about the condition of our sector and the morale of our men and women,” Garza said. “We told him about the dangers our agents face because of low manpower numbers.”
“With the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector right next door, many of the smugglers try to find a way around their increased law enforcement presence and sneak through our sectors,” he explained. “The RGV sector is by far the busiest in terms of apprehensions, and that pushes people in our direction.”
During the first three months of FY 2017, Border Patrol officials reported 22,643 arrests of illegal aliens in the RGV Sector alone. During that same period, the Laredo Sector saw 3,350 apprehensions.
“Overtime would help make up for some of our shortfall in manpower,” Garza stated. “The lack of manpower has a direct impact on agent safety and our effectiveness in deterring crossings, making apprehensions, and stopping drug smuggling.”
“If we don’t have enough manpower,” he continued, “we don’t have the agents to conduct apprehensions or agents available to provide backup for those who get attacked. This is a very real problem regarding agent safety.”
“It also takes us longer to respond to lifesaving calls when migrants get trapped in the river or lost in the ranch fields and need assistance,” he affirmed. “This negatively impacts our ability to carry out our mission.”
“It’s not just about manpower,” Garza continued. “We also have equipment and facility issues. For example, we need an improved vehicle maintenance facility to keep our patrol vehicles on the border and out of the shop.”
“All of these things affect the agents’ morale,” the union president continued. “Morale had been very low during the Obama Administration. It is much better since the election of President Trump and his executive orders calling for increased enforcement. Our men and women want to do their jobs, and we weren’t allowed to do that before.”
“We are excited about the opportunity to carry out our mission,” he said. “If we can continue to work on some of these quality issues, morale will bounce back quickly.”
Garza said the chief was very attentive to their message. “He really listened,” Garza stated. “He also left the door open for future communication and updates. He wants to know how we are doing. That is a significant change.”
(Disclosure: Breitbart Texas sponsored the Green Line podcast for the NBPC in an effort to provide a platform for agents to inform the public about the realities on the border and what Border Patrol agents face. Director Brandon Darby received an award from the Laredo chapter of the NBPC for his work in helping to defend and bring a voice to Border Patrol agents. Breitbart News assisted in covering funeral costs for a slain Border Patrol agent previously.)