Feb 21, 2013 9:39 PM by Lupita Murillo

Budget worries for Border Patrol

TUCSON - Next week, the federal sequestration takes hold with $85 billion, in mandatory cuts. That is unless there's a budget compromise. Cuts will start, automatically, next Friday.

Millions of jobs are on the line including those that protect our borders.

Art Del Cueto is a Border Patrol agent. He's also president of Local 2544 the Border Patrol Union which represents about 35,000 agents. "We understand we are going through rough times, but cutting down the security of our nation I don't believe is the way to go at it."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was in Nogales touring the border this week and said Border Patrol is now better staffed, having doubled the number of agents from 10,000 to more than 21,300 today.

Del Cueto says, "We have more agents but we don't have them doing border patrol work. We're actually helping out other agencies. Agencies that didn't receive additional personnel."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently sent an email to the National Border Patrol Council telling them about sequestration and the impact on agents, such as cutting overtime, and implementing a hiring freeze.

The day after that email was sent, a job posting went on the government website looking to hire Border Patrol Agents. The salary ranged from $38,000 to $63,000. "Why are they hiring these agents if they don't have the money to give these agents."

What really irritates Del Cueto about sequestration is neither Napolitano nor Congress are taking pay cuts.

"But the agents, that are truly putting their lives on the line, getting rocked, getting shot at, not having enough proper equipment, not having uniforms those are the people that are taking the hit," he says.

There's also mention of furloughs. Del cueto says, agents haven't had a uniform allowance since October. So many agents must buy their own boots to walk the rugged terrain of the Sonoran desert.

Border Patrol's budget is being slashed by $248 million.


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