(Headline USA) Following more than a year of neglect, the severely strained Border Patrol is getting increased attention from the Biden administration in the wake of tense meetings between senior officials and the rank-and-file.
As the agency deals with one of the largest spikes in migration along the U.S.–Mexico border in decades, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has been utterly derelict in his duties—leading at least one agent to turn his back on the leftist official.
Mayorkas laid out 19 ways to address working conditions after frosty receptions by agents, said Chris Magnus, the new commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
Magnus—the former police chief of Tucson, Arizona— has, himself, been criticized as an extremist who refused to say during his confirmation hearings whether he thought there was a crisis at the Border.
Nonetheless, the escalating fiasco has forced both of the woke officials in charge at least to acknowledge the severity of the problem.
Mayorkas issued a memo vowing to push for more prosecutions of people accused of assaulting CBP personnel in the course of their duties—an issue raised at a recent meeting in Laredo, Texas, and elsewhere—Magnus said Tuesday.
“That’s something that agents in the field want to hear because assaults are on the uptick,” Magnus told the Associated Press. “We are not just seeing folks who are fleeing to the U.S. to get away from conditions. We are seeing smugglers, members of cartels, and drug organizations that are actively engaged in doing harm.”
Efforts to deal with working conditions for agents come as Biden has been criticized across the political spectrum over immigration.
He has sought to reverse many effective, pro-enforcement policies of his predecessor, but has come under fire over the situation at the border that could cause trouble for Democrats in the midterm elections.
An estimated 2 million immigrants already have entered the country illegally on Biden’s watch, with many of them being shipped secretly to parts of the country’s interior where they remain untraceable.
CBP encountered would-be asylum-seekers from all over the world last year, including some that were on terrorist watch lists. It is unknown how many illegals were able to enter the country without detection.
Even in the rare cases in which some were turned away under Title 42—a public health order issued at the start of the pandemic—border agents have had to deal with repeated apprehensions due to the incentives that leftist leaders have offered for those who succeed in violating US sovereignty.
Critics, including many Border Patrol agents, say Biden’s “catch-and-release” policy of allowing children and families to stay in the country and pursue asylum has encouraged irregular migration.
But Magnus claimed the agents, and the administration, were just trying to manage a complicated situation.
“We’re seeing folks that are encountering political conditions and violence, unsafe conditions to live and work, at unprecedented levels,” Magnus said in the interview, his first since he was sworn in Friday.
He suggested—without evidence—that climate change and other globalist pet causes may be to blame.
“We’ve seen, for example, in places, earthquakes or other environmental conditions,” Magnus claimed. “We’re seeing unprecedented levels of poverty—all of these are things that are in many ways, you know, pushing migrants again at high levels to this country.”
The administration nominally has dispatched Vice President and Border Czar Kamala Harris to address the “root causes” of migration including by increasing aid to Central America.
It has also restarted a visa program that was ended under President Donald Trump and has sought assistance from other countries, including Mexico, to do more to stop or take in migrants.
As the overall numbers have increased, and the administration has decided to allow many families to stay and seek asylum in a process that can take years, some Border Patrol agents have grown disenchanted as they spend their shifts processing and transporting people, not out in the field.
Meanwhile, their reassignment to clerical work has been a green-light for bad actors to steal across the border unsupervised.
That frustration boiled over in Laredo as agents met late last month with Mayorkas and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, who acknowledged morale was at an “all-time low,” according to a leaked video published by the Washington Examiner.
One agent complained about “doing nothing” except releasing people into the United States, referring to the practice of allowing migrants to remain free while their cases wind through immigration court.
At another meeting, in Yuma, Arizona, Mayorkas told agents he understood that apprehending families and children “is not what you signed up to do” and that their jobs were becoming more challenging amid an influx of Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, according to video published by the conservative website Townhall. One of the agents turned his back on the secretary.
Magnus has heard similar concerns raised in meetings. “I think it has been difficult for many of them who spent most of their careers or anticipated that their careers would be largely working in the field, on the border,” he said.
The commissioner declined to specify the 19 areas where Mayorkas “wants to see improvement,” because they have not been publicly released. But another official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal document, said they include expanding the role of a new class of civilian employees to add tasks such as transporting migrants to medical facilities so agents can return to other duties.
Another point calls for faster decisions on asylum cases at the border. Agents have expressed frustration that asylum-seekers are freed in the U.S., often for years, while their claims make their way through an system backlogged with about 1.6 million cases.
Magnus said he hopes to expand mental health services for agents and provide additional resources to help them and their families cope with a stressful job that requires them to move often.
“There is never one simple solution to addressing morale at any organization, but I absolutely appreciate the very challenging conditions that the men and women of the Border Patrol and CBP in general have been have been working under,” he said.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press