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Union official says Border Patrol morale is down after shutdown
By: Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO, Texas With a rough year of furloughs, pay cuts and now 16 days without pay because of the partial government shutdown, officials with the Border Patrol union said morale is at an all-time low.
Union Vice President Stu Harris said agents are tired of being used as a political football, and he said Washington is compromising security at the border.
"When you're on job, you're taught to be at a heightened state of awareness," Harris said. "That's your life on the line and your partner's life on the line. Imagine having to be at that heightened state of awareness while at the same time you're wondering, 'How am I going to pay the bills? How am I going to make ends meet?' It's difficult; very difficult."
Because of the shutdown, agents received half a check or less this week and will likely wait another two weeks before they get their missing wages.
Harris said that means agents will be forced to decide which bills will get paid and which ones will have to wait.
Furthermore, Border Patrol trainees were sent home during the shutdown and that will create a lapse, Harris said.
Lawmakers passed a compromise Wednesday night, but it only buys time until Jan. 15, 2014. At that point, federal employees will likely find themselves in the same position.
Harris said he believes there will be some lasting impacts that have yet to be seen.
Officials said agents should receive their back pay with their next check, which is expected to arrive in two weeks. However, some worry the additional income could mean more income taxes.