Texas border leaders unleashed a diatribe at the interim director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday for postponing a planned pay raise for federal agents and failing to beef up protection of the state’s border with Mexico.
“The lack of common sense that went into Commissioner (David) Aguilar’s decision to renege on a promised Spring 2010 pay raise for CBP officers, Border Patrol agents and agriculture specialists is truly disgraceful,” said Efrain Valdez, the mayor of Del Rio and newly elected chairman of the Texas Border Coalition.
Valdez said that in October, the DHS announced it would increase the federal agents’ salaries by one pay-grade - from GS-11 status to GS-12 (also called "journeyman" pay) - but it has since postponed implementation of the increase until September.
“The officers who protect our land ports of entry are especially taxed — routinely working 16-hour days in extreme weather against increasingly cunning Mexican cartels seeking to penetrate our borders with contraband, cash and weapons. Hiring the 5,000 agents needed to protect our land ports of entry and fulfilling a promised pay raise should be among the administration’s top priorities,” Valdez added. “TBC would like Commissioner Aguilar to tell the American people where the money went.”
TBC's statement comes a day after the Associated Press reported that a top CBP official told a U.S. Senate homeland security subcommittee that Mexican drug cartels are infiltrating U.S. law enforcement agencies that operate along the southwest border. The AP also noted that CBP agents charged with administering polygraph tests and background checks lack the necessary resources to do so.
Tara Dunlop, a public affairs officer with CBP, released the following statement in response to the Texas Border Coalition's statement:
Achieving the Journeyman upgrade by March 28th has always been contingent upon the availability of the required funding. Unfortunately, due to looming budget requirements, the implementation date must now be delayed. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will continue to assertively seek possible funding sources and still plan to implement the upgrades as soon as possible. However, at this time, we are projecting that the promotions will be delayed until as late as September of 2010.
It is important to note the Journeyman upgrades are fully-funded in the President’s FY 2011 budget which is now pending action with Congress. The cost to implement the Journeyman increase is significant for the agency -- upwards of $300 million annually.