Looming pay cuts to Border Patrol agents prompted a meeting between Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, and a Border Patrol union leader who is rallying political support to keep pay cuts at bay.
The meeting held in El Centro on Thursday seemed informal but takes place amid the deactivation of nine interior Border Patrol stations across the country, of which one is located in Riverside.
These deactivations, according to El Centro Sector Border Patrol Supervisory Agent Armando M. Garcia, are consistent with the goal of securing the border.
“By redeploying and reallocating resources at or near the border, CBP will maximize the effectiveness of its enforcement mandate,” reads a written statement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
But the deactivations were just a part of Thursday’s discussion, which revolved around presumed budget cuts that may affect nationwide Border Patrol salaries.
“We have good reliable sources (saying) that the agency (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) and especially Border Patrol is trying to cut expenses because of the economic situation in the whole country, and they have problems with the budget and a lot of the regular basis operations that we need to conduct,” said National Border Patrol Council Local 2554 union president Lombardo Amaya after the meeting.
“They have been trying for so many years to cut Border Patrol pay as a way to save money and have a better budget according to the situation, but this time they are targeting up to 30 to 32 percent of premium pay for Border Patrol (agents),” said Amaya.
About 22,000 Border Patrol agents, including first line supervisors and field operation supervisors, could be affected by the cuts, he said.
The other concern, Amaya said, is that the Department of Homeland Security just approved a contract worth $100 million with a private company to monitor ultra light airplanes coming illegally in the country with contraband.
In August, the Department of Homeland Security awarded SRCTec Inc. from New York, a $99.9 million contract to produce a system to monitor for low-profile aircrafts that have proven difficult to detect by conventional radars.
But Amaya disapproves of the contract.
“We have the (intelligence information), we have the personnel and the resources. We can ask for the National Guard, we can ask for the Air Force and operate the system that we use to monitor this,” Amaya said.
“We can be on the ground, observing, compiling data and intel reports about this,” he said. “I don’t know why we are spending this. I mean, it’s fine if we have money, but it’s not fine if you are trying to cut the Border Patrol agents’ salary.”
Pérez agreed to be involved in the issue, and following the meeting said “obviously 32 percent is a major hit.”
“I think it’s important that we continue to protect and secure our borders,” he said, noting that the Border Patrol is an ally of the Calexico Police Department, which has a minimum amount of officers on the street and needs the Border Patrol as back-up.
“Cutting their pay it’s not going to be helpful in a border region,” he said, “and it’s not going to be helpful to the city of Calexico.
The union will now touch base with state Sen. Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, Pérez said, “and then I’m going to be on call for whenever they (union) believe I need to make a statement.”
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org