9OYS Border Watch
Border patrol agents face pay cuts, furloughs following sequester
Local BP union president says this will hurt security, agents' families
A 40 percent pay cut. If you make $40,000 a year, that's $16,000 you don't have to support your family. But that's the reality for Arizona Border Patrol agents, who put their lives on the line to keep you safe. Video by kgun9.comvideo
Border Patrol agent Art Del Cueto has a newborn baby at home as he adjusts to a 40 percent pay cut following the sequester.
Reporter: Justin Schecker
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A 40 percent pay cut. If you make $40,000 a year, that's $16,000 you don't have to support your family.
But that's the reality for Arizona Border Patrol agents, who put their lives on the line to keep you safe.
Art Del Cueto is the president of Local 2544, the Tucson chapter of the border patrol union. He's spent the past decade on the front lines and now he's worried what major sequester-related cutbacks will mean for border security and agents' families.
As a field agent, he tells 9 On Your Side tracking drug smugglers and undocumented immigrants is not a normal eight hour job.
"You have to get out of your vehicle and you have to follow those footprints," Del Cueto said. "And sometimes it takes 3-4 hours, miles, may take longer than that."
Del Cueto told 9 On Your Side a 40 percent pay cut, reduced overtime hours, and furloughs for agents equal a major setback for border security.
"The violence on the border is real," he said. "We're not making it up. You can't make this stuff up."
Congressman Ron Barber (D-AZ) addressed cutbacks to border patrol in a Sunday Op-Ed in the Sierra Vista Herald.
"In the dry language of Washington, we are told that the furloughs and elimination of overtime will result in a diminished capability and capacity to detect and interdict illicit activity along Arizona's border with Mexico," Barber wrote. "Here is how I read that. Our border will be less secure. That must not happen."
Del Cueto wishes more more politicians would stand up for Border Patrol.
"It is a shame that we have politicians in Washington like Ms. Napolitano, who was governor of this state, who knows the problems we have and she wont talk to us yet," Del Cueto said.
Meanwhile, Del Cueto said the smugglers are wasting no time.
"They know what's going on," he said. "We've already seen groups large groups of up to 300 people staging just south of the border."
But on our side of the border, it is the agents and their families feeling the immediate impact of the sequester.
"I just had a kid two weeks ago, so those of you that have newborns know how hard it is," he said. "There's a lot more expenses that need to be spent. I'm taking a 40 percent hit. Every agent out there has kids, has a family. We're all taking a 40 percent hit."
Between now and September, border patrol agents have to take 14 furlough days. That's nearly three work weeks without pay.
Del Cueto told 9 On Your Side his chapter of the union sent Secretary Napolitano an open invitation to meet last Thursday, but she has not responded yet.