U.S. Border Patrol agents are getting ready for the president’s visit to the southern border Thursday, but they’re dealing with limited man power because of the partial government shutdown.
“It’s very difficult to soften that blow,” said acting Border Patrol Chief for the Rio Grande Valley Sector Raul Ortiz.
This is the third furlough Ortiz has had to endure since he joined the agency 27 years ago.
Only this time it’s about to be the longest shutdown without his fellow agents getting paid.
“I’m having to take some agents off some of those front lines to be able to do some of those jobs that traditionally a civilian would normally occupy,” he said.
About 54,000 U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel are furloughed by the government shutdown. Including Border Patrol agents, customs and TSA personnel.
In the Rio Grande Valley, which is considered ground zero for undocumented immigration, roughly 200 civilian Border Patrol employees aren’t showing up for work. In the meantime, more than 3,000 agents are set to miss the first of their paychecks this Friday.
The cause for this is an impasse in negotiations between President Donald Trump and congressional democrats over a $5.7 billion border wall.
The president will be traveling to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas this Thursday, where he’s expected to meet with men and women working border security and who are also directly impacted by the political gridlock.
“Even though it does take a bit of a draw on our resources out there, I think it’s important for us to tell that story,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz noted that the partial government shutdown has not distracted agents from patrolling the border. He said they’re detaining an average of 600 undocumented immigrants a day and have seized more than 40,000 pounds of marijuana since October. However, he adds that this may not be the case if the shutdown continues.
“If the traffic starts to rise and we [see] people and more narcotics coming across the river, then I do think we will find ourselves in a bit of a difficult situation," said Ortiz.