U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today welcomed an announcement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that it is re-evaluating plans to furlough Border Patrol agents and cut their overtime -- proposals that Barber has strongly opposed.
"I am glad that these cuts have been postponed and are being re-evaluated ," Barber said today. "As originally proposed, these cuts would have unfairly slashed the salary of Border Patrol agents and made our borders less secure.
"But this move is only a temporary reprieve," Barber added. "I urge the Department of Homeland Security to now take the next step and assure Border Patrol agents that they will not face furloughs or overtime reductions for the rest of the fiscal year."
In response to across-the-board cuts mandated by sequestration, the Department of Homeland Security had said it would force Border Patrol agents to take off one day every two weeks without pay. Overtime also was to be severely reduced, resulting in a salary reduction of up to 40 percent for agents working along the nation's southern border.
The cuts were supposed to go into effect April 7. But in a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of DHS, said it is postponing implementation of the cuts and re-evaluating them.
The statement said that legislation passed two weeks ago will "allow CBP to mitigate to some degree the impacts of the reduced budget on operations and on CBP's workforce."
Barber voted for that legislation that funds the government for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year, preventing a government shutdown. The legislation also gave additional funding to DHS to offset some sequestration cuts.
Barber has been a consistent critic of the indiscriminate, across the board sequestration cuts and the large reductions in pay that Border Patrol agents would face.
Last week, Barber urged DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to halt the Border Patrol cuts which would have been equivalent to taking 5,000 agents off the job fulltime. "The security of our borders is a national priority and our Border Patrol agents are central to this mission," Barber told Napolitano.
"Through the hard work of Border Patrol agents, we have made progress in securing the border, Barber added. "Reductions in their hours and pay will degrade that progress. Our agents must continue to be authorized to work and receive full compensation to keep our nation safe."
Barber wrote Napolitano after listening to more than 150 Border Patrol agents and their families in two recent Southern Arizona gatherings. Leaders of Local 2544 of the Border Patrol Council invited Barber to speak to agents at meetings in Sierra Vista and Tucson because of the congressman's strong support for agents and his commitment to border security.
Two weeks ago, Barber, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency in the Committee on Homeland Security, told Congress that the Border Patrol budget cuts would threaten the security of the border and of the nation.
Barber also called on the leaders of the House and Senate to reverse the sequestration cuts for DHS. And he persuaded other House members from Arizona to join him in writing to the Speaker of the House demanding an end to cuts that would impact the Border Patrol.