The government shutdown is taking a financial toll on border patrol agents required to report for duty as they are considered essential workers, but are not getting paid due to the logjam in Washington.
Many agents “live paycheck to paycheck,” said Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Union.
“We continue to do the job, no matter what,” Moran said, though he added that the strain on agents and their families is noticeable.
Border agents, like military personnel, are considered essential. However, unlike the pay of servicemen, border agents’ pay was not addressed in legislation during the shutdown.
Moran pointed out that agents who are “on the front lines risking their lives” are not getting paid, but those who work in Congress continue to get their paychecks.
“At this point, most of our agents and members are extremely frustrated. If you look at what we have been through this year already, the government lock out is yet another example of how the morale of our agents is probably the worst it’s ever been,” said Stuart Harris, vice president of Local 1929 of the National Border Patrol Council, in an email to the Free Beacon.
Harris pointed out that following sequestration, agents were faced with 14 furlough days and a 42 percent pay cut.
“Now our agents have to go to work not knowing if or when the paycheck is going to come in,” Harris said.
“They feel like a political football,” said Moran.
Harris wrote Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D., Texas) to express his agents’ frustration at the shutdown. O’Rourke read Harris’ letter on the House floor last week in support of the border patrol agents.
Many agents have reached out to their creditors to explain they could expect delayed payments, according to Harris.
Others are taking low-interest loans from their credit unions to pay their bills, Moran said.
Unemployment is another option some border patrol agents are considering, but Harris explained it varies from one state to the next.
“Some states require being furloughed for a minimum amount of time before one can file for those benefits,” he said.
The Local 2544 Border Patrol union, which represents agents in Tucson, said on its blog agents must do what they can to survive without pay, which includes filing for unemployment insurance.
“As the politicians who created this mess continue to blame each other, we are going to start missing pay checks out here in the real world,” the union’s blog read. “Politicians are mostly elitist millionaires, so they really don’t have much to worry about.”
“The bottom line is that I think most, if not all, federal employees are sick and tired of being used as political pawns,” Harris said. “It’s time to end the lock out and get back to business.”
Aside from agents working without pay, training has been curtailed and the academy “has essentially been shut down,” according to Moran. Additionally, “prosecutions have been greatly curtailed,” and only the most serious offenders are being prosecuted.