NPR Story
4:27 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Rep. Barber Contests Border Patrol Overtime Cuts

TUCSON, Ariz. — U.S. Border Patrol agents are safe from sequestration budget cuts, but will face reductions to overtime pay under a budget plan introduced by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Border Patrol’s union says at risk is about $60 million in what’s called uncontrollable overtime for patrol agents. Those are hours budgeted in for agents nearing the end of a shift, such as agents tracking someone far out in the desert.

"You can’t just stop and then go back and leave the group there. I mean, you just can’t do that," said Local 2544 union president Art del Cueto. The union represents agents in the Tucson Sector.

The plan is to cut that overtime by 5 percent. But Del Cueto says agents were told if they don’t reach a 5-percent cut by July 1, Homeland Security will revert to its original sequestration plan of a 40-percent cut. Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) warned the cuts will leave Border Patrol stations understaffed.

"Securing the border in the Arizona desert is not a 9-to-5, 40-hour-per-week job for Border Patrol agents who often work far from their duty stations," Barber wrote in a statement.

"If they are in the middle of tracking a group of dangerous drug smugglers as the end of their shift approaches, they can’t turn the job over to a nearby colleague and go home," he wrote.

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