60,000 Border and Customs Agents Told to Take Furloughs

Thursday, 07 Mar 2013 08:04 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Sixty-thousand federal employees responsible for securing the nation’s borders and facilitating trade will be furloughed for as many as 14 days starting next month because of $85 billion in cross-government spending cuts.

The federal government notified the workers on Thursday, CNN reports.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the furloughs and other austerity measures would cause delays at ports of entry, including international arrivals at airports, and would reduce the number of border patrol officers on duty at any one time, CNN reports.

Urgent: Obama or GOP: Who’s to Blame for Budget Crisis? Vote Now

David Aguilar, the agency's deputy commissioner, said it must cut about $754 million by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The agency plans to institute furloughs throughout its departments, a hiring freeze — and to reduce or eliminate overtime, compensatory time, travel and training. Other federal agencies are following similar steps because of the spending cuts that took effect on March 1 through sequestration.

Customs “continues to evaluate further impacts of sequestration” on its operations, an agency spokeswoman, Jenny Burke, said in a statement reported by CNN.

“Even with these cuts, though, individuals apprehended illegally crossing the southwest border will still be processed as usual,” Burke said.

The Customs furloughs will begin in mid-April, with reductions in border patrol overtime starting on April 7, Burke said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Monday that she expects customs wait times to increase to 150 to 200 percent of normal, CNN said.

"I don't mean to scare, I mean to inform,” Napolitano said. “If you're traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise would. There's only so much we can do with personnel.”

Meanwhile, the union representing some 24,000 agency employees predicted on Thursday that the cuts would “undercut” national security and bring a loss of revenue.

Customs collects more money for the federal government than any agency other than the Internal Revenue Service, the National Treasury Employees Union said in a statement.

“There is no escaping the reality that sequestration is having serious effects on the traveling public and on vital commerce,” the union’s president, Colleen M. Kelley, said in the statement.

Late last month, Napolitano and other Obama administration officials came under fire — particularly from officials in Arizona — for the release of hundreds of illegal immigrants held in local jails to save money as the sequester neared.

Napolitano has since promised to release more illegals, primarily on supervised release, saying the sequester had left her no choice.

“We’re going to continue to do that for the foreseeable future,” Napolitano said at a March 4 breakfast meeting hosted by Politico. “We are going to manage our way through this by identifying the lowest-risk detainees, and putting them into some kind of alternative to release.”

Urgent: Obama or GOP: Who’s to Blame for Budget Crisis? Vote Now

However, internal Homeland Security documents quoted in news reports indicated that 2,000 illegals had already been released by the time of the sequester — and officials planned to let go 3,000 more.

As many as 11 million illegal immigrants are in the United States, about seven million of whom are working — primarily in low-skill jobs.

However, roughly 20 million Americans are without jobs, including several million Americans with few job skills, according to news reports.



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