Washington D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security cannot justify spending $21.3 million to send extra federal officers to the Texas border, according to the House Appropriations Committee, a conclusion backed by the National Treasury Employees Union.
DHS wants 810 Customs and Border Protection Officers to deploy to the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo to assist Border Patrol in two 60-day tours scheduled to begin in the next few weeks. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security did not concur with the agency's proposal to reprogram the money to pay for the temporary deployments.
"Given the increasing number of CBP personnel who have contracted COVID-19 in the course of their duties – including many who have not survived the infection – it does not appear that the proposed surge has adequately taken into account the health and safety of the workforce,” according to the letter from Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), chairwoman of the subcommittee, to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.
NTEU for weeks has raised concerns about the deployments, including the health and safety of all CBP personnel already working in the region as well as the new arrivals', and whether the data justifies the surge of law enforcement personnel.
“We agree with Chairwoman Roybal-Allard and others who are not comfortable with sending hundreds of federal law enforcement officers into a coronavirus hotspot when it may not even be necessary,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “The health care situation along the Texas border is dire, and we are extremely concerned about the safety of the CBP personnel who already live and work there, let alone 810 more who would need safe housing, transportation and protective equipment.”
NTEU represents about 27,000 CBP employees at land, sea and air ports around the country.
“CBP has failed to provide quantifiable metrics that might justify this proposed operation,” the congressional letter states.
NTEU also concurs with Rep. Roybal-Allard’s assertion that DHS should submit a separate, formal request for supplemental funding to help the agency offset the pandemic-related drop in user fees collected at the ports that the agency relies upon for revenue.
NTEU represents about 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.