Washington D.C. – Customs and Border Protection should reverse plans to temporarily deploy 810 Officers from ports around the country to the Texas border, according to two key members of Congress who agree with NTEU’s concerns about their health and safety.
NTEU, which represents 27,000 CBP personnel at the ports of entry, last week said the worsening coronavirus crisis in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo sectors is putting CBP employees already stationed there at risk, and would do the same to extra Officers sent to the region to work at Border Patrol checkpoints.
On Wednesday, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and the chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security leadership calling the deployments unnecessary and dangerous.
“This deployment increases the risk of COVID-19 for these officers, the local public, and the officers’ home ports and communities upon their return,” wrote Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Chairwoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY). Their letter was sent to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan.
Six CBP port employees with the Office of Field Operations and one Border Patrol Agent have died from COVID-19, and 1,355 CBP employees have tested positive, according to the agency.
“We are grateful to have Chairman Thompson and Chairwoman Rice join our call to keep even more federal law enforcement officers from being sent into a coronavirus hot spot,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “DHS should instead be focused on protecting its frontline federal employees already on the Texas border, where COVID-19 is spreading and the local health care system is fast reaching capacity.”
CBP informed NTEU that the deployment would require 810 CBP Officers from around the country to support Border Patrol in Texas for each of two consecutive 60-day deployments.
In addition to regular discussions about personal protective equipment and cleaning protocols, NTEU has asked CBP to provide COVID-19 testing for employees and effective contact tracing.
“We also encourage DHS and CBP to implement policies that allow for more social distancing in the workplace, particularly in areas with surging COVID-19 infections, and provide opportunities for employees to work from home while fulfilling mission requirements,” Thompson and Rice wrote.
NTEU represents about 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.