If Congress wants to seriously start addressing the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border, it should first turn to those who risk their lives each and every day to protect the integrity of that border, U.S. Border Patrol Agents. If you ask the frontline troops what’s needed on the ground, they’ll tell you more agents and better yet, they can do it by saving taxpayer dollars. Only in the political bubble that exists in Washington, could Congress overlook the obvious – a plan that puts more boots on the ground and saves us all money. Yet, that is exactly what’s happening. Border Patrol Agents have been yelling from the Rio Grande all the way to Capitol Hill, that they have a simple, effective, cost-saving path towards alleviating the emergency at the border.
When the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Border Supplemental, they committed taxpayers to spending $694 million dollars. Included in that cost, is the $30 million tagged for sending 1000 National Guard troops to the Texas border. Again, missed in the political flurry was the inconvenient fact the National Guard has no authority to arrest anyone. Neither have they been trained for the task. Historically, Border Patrol Agents and National Guard troops have enormous respect for each other and have worked together in the event of national disasters and other specialized instances. But as much as the offer is appreciated, the National Guard is not the solution needed here and now.
The simple option proposed by Border Patrol Agents is to extend their workable hours, from around 9 hours a day to a 10-hour day. There is already a bipartisan bill proposed to do just that, from Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana), Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). The Pay Reform legislation would effectively put 1200 extra Border Patrol Agents in the field by increasing their hours. A bigger contingent than the National Guard offering and more importantly, they are troops who are ready, willing and trained to do the extra work. Best of all for taxpayers, in July the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government’s non-partisan accountant, estimated a $100 million savings per year.
Again, if you asked the Border Patrol Agents what they need, they’d tell you it is experience. Daily, they see the drug cartels mercilessly using women and children to distract agents, tying them up in logistics and bureaucracy as the drug runners and coyotes use alternative routes to smuggle drugs and people across the border. Inject more agents with the intuition and experience that goes with the job, and the job will be better done.
The Border Patrol Agents ask why such a common sense approach is not being seized upon. Truth be told, it’s not a particularly sexy topic, (pay reform never is) and it’s unlikely there will be any political points to be scored from it. But it will help. This country’s Border Patrol Agents don’t care about the politics but they do care about solutions.
No-one seriously expects one single action to solve this crisis on our border with Mexico. It requires a strategy not a magic bullet. But Congress should put away the pen that signs over $30 million in taxpayers’ dollars to send the National Guard to the Texas border. It’s a stopgap measure instead of the long-term solution proposed by the agents themselves. This country’s Border Patrol Agents can do a better job – the job they were trained to perform – and it will leave the country’s coffers in better shape. Surely that’s a goal that rises above politics.
National Border Patrol Council