WASHINGTON (AP), -- The Biden administration is paying more attention to the strained Border Patrol after tense meetings with senior officials and rank and file. This agency has been dealing with the most significant spikes in immigration along the U.S-Mexico border since decades.
Alejandro Mayorkas from the Department of Homeland Security, who supervises the Border Patrol, has laid out 19 methods to improve working conditions following frosty receptions of agents. Chris Magnus is the new Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
Mayorkas also promised in a memo that he would push for more prosecutions against people accused of assaulting CBP employees in the course of their duties. This was an issue that was raised at a meeting in Laredo (Texas) on Tuesday.
Magnus stated to The Associated Press that "that's something agents in the field would like to hear because assaults seem to be on the rise." We are not only seeing people fleeing from unsafe conditions. As President Joe Biden is criticized for his efforts to improve working conditions for agents, we also see members of cartels and drug groups that are actively involved in doing harm. While he has attempted to reverse the hardcore policies of his predecessor, he has been criticized for the current situation at the border which could pose a problem for Democrats in the midterm election.
CBP met migrants from all parts of the globe about 1.7million times at the U.S./Mexico border in 2013. This number is among the highest ever recorded. It was inflated by the repeated apprehended people from all over the world who were refused asylum under a public order that was issued shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic.
While immigration advocates have condemned the administration's failure to repeal Title 42, critics including Border Patrol agents say that a Biden policy allowing families and children to remain in the country and seek asylum has encouraged irregular migration.
Magnus stated that the agents and the administration are trying to manage a complex situation. We've witnessed, for instance, earthquakes and other environmental conditions in some places. Unprecedented levels of poverty are being witnessed. These are all things that, in many ways, are pushing migrants back to this country at high levels.
The Trump administration sought to address the problem of migration by increasing aid to Central America, and restarting a visa program that was discontinued under President Donald Trump. It also sought help from Mexico and other countries to assist in stopping or taking in migrants.
Some Border Patrol agents are becoming disillusioned as they spend their time transporting and processing people and not out in the field.
This frustration flared in Laredo when agents met with Mayorkas, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz and discussed morale. According to a video leaked by the Washington Examiner, Ortiz acknowledged that morale was at an "all time low." One agent complained that he did nothing except release people into the United States. This refers to the practice of allowing migrants to remain in their homes while their cases are processed by immigration court.
Mayorkas stated to agents that he understood that the job of apprehending families was not what he had signed up for. He also said that it was becoming more difficult due to an influx from Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Cubans. One agent turned his back to the secretary.
Magnus has also heard similar concerns in meetings. He said, "It has been difficult for many people who spent most of the time or expected that their careers would be largely in the field, at the border."
Because they are not publicly available, the commissioner did not specify which 19 areas Mayorkas wanted to see improvements in. A second official spoke on condition of anonymity and said that the internal plans include expanding the role for a new category of civilian employees. This will allow them to transport migrants to medical facilities, so that agents can return to their other duties.
Another aspect is faster decision making at the border on asylum cases. Agents expressed dismay that asylum-seekers are allowed to remain in the U.S. for many years while their claims go through a backlog of about 1.6million cases.
Magnus stated that he hopes to increase mental health services for agents, and provide additional resources to aid them and their families with stressful jobs that require them to move frequently.
He stated that there is no one solution for morale problems at any organization. However, he expressed his appreciation for the difficult conditions the Border Patrol and CBP employees have had to work under.