Updated Uniform and Grooming Standards

On June 30, 2021, Chief Scott approved the updated uniform and grooming standards policy for U.S. Border Patrol agents. It’s unclear if it has been distributed to all agents sector-wide, but it is indeed in effect right now.

Overall, this is a great update to the policy — here are some of the more notable changes:

As announced last month and the subject of a recent grievance, the new policy allows agents to wear the hard plate carrier (HPC) over just the performance patrol shirt (PPS).

Agents may wear a duty belt back brace, which was the subject of a wear test a few years ago. This type of device is usually attached to the back of a duty belt and allows for additional support, providing relief for agents who have back pain.

Duty belt harness systems (DBHS), also known as suspenders, may now be worn, which should provide relief for agents with back pain and hopefully prevent future back pain for others. A DBHS must be black or a color similar to our uniform, and it cannot be worn while participating in Honor Guard, recruiting, public affairs, oral hiring boards, or during airport operations.

Sleeves are now officially allowed to be rolled up while not “in the public eye.” Although this was not an issue for most locations, some managers are picky about this, so now the policy allows it “to facilitate airflow and ventilation.”

The previous policy said that boots needed to have a “plain toe with no stitching or decorative design.” Now, the boots worn with the RDU can have “a rubber toe cap with limited stitching or decorative design.” Why is this a thing? Well, some managers used the previous language to prevent agents from wearing tactical-style boots that had stitching on them to hold the toe cap on the shoe. Even though these boots tend to be more comfortable than what we usually wear, some managers cared more about stitching than allowing agents to wear boots that let them work harder for longer periods of time. The policy now allows tactical-style boots with stitching to be worn.

Female agents can have permanent makeup, as long as it is professional and conservative.

Section 2 of the policy includes some of the other relatively minor changes.

Eagle Pass North supervisor ignores memos from Chief Scott

Update: this issue has been resolved. Although DRT sent the new guidance to Eagle Pass North two days before this grievance (which was still over two weeks after DC sent it to the sector), the station failed to notify its supervisors and agents. Agents are now allowed to wear the PPS and HPC.

As previously announced by Local 2366, Chief Scott authorized agents to wear the hard plate carrier (HPC) over just the performance patrol shirt (PPS) if they want to. The purpose of the change was to encourage more agents to wear body armor, particularly in the hot summer months, something we thank the agency for implementing. Since that memo was released, Chief Scott also approved an updated Uniform and Grooming Standards policy, which also allows for the HPC to be worn over the PPS.

However, despite these memos being released last month, a supervisor on the midnight shift at Eagle Pass North Station has refused to obey Chief Scott’s orders, claiming that he will not do anything that is not ordered by Del Rio Sector. The supervisor even went as far as to send agents home so they could change their uniform shirt as if they were children who violated their school’s dress code.

It is examples like this, among others, that show why some agents are demoralized about their job. Rather than seek guidance from the management point of contact in Chief Scott’s memorandum, this supervisor treated his agents like children – agents who were doing nothing more than following the rules set out by the Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol.

The union has already filed a grievance against the supervisor who believes he can ignore Chief Scott and we are addressing the matter with the agency. We hope that the issue can be resolved quickly so that agents can work in a safer environment in Eagle Pass, as intended by the agency’s senior leadership.

DRS management blames agent for their inadequate security layout

On July 6, 2021, two immigrants illegally present in the United States managed to escape from an enclosed detention area within the Del Rio Station. After they exploited a blind spot to leave an enclosed area, they scaled the perimeter fence and ran off into the neighborhood. Thankfully, after a search of the surrounding area, both subjects were located, re-arrested, and are facing escape charges.

Since then, the station has been investigating what took place. The union has received information that Del Rio Station management has reportedly decided to throw an agent under the bus for the escape, instead of accepting responsibility for and fixing design flaws in the station’s detention area; we will not go into details for OPSEC reasons. Agents assigned to guard this portion of the station are not only assigned to watch 100 or so immigrants alone but also have to perform other tasks, like deal with detainees’ personal property.

The union has evidence that the blind spot used by the immigrants to escape was brought to management’s attention in the past, but they did nothing about it. Knowing that the blind spot existed, the station also failed to notify all agents on guard duty of the blind spot so they could pay extra attention to that area – they also continued to assign additional duties to agents guarding this area. If Del Rio Sector chooses to propose discipline for any agents in this matter, the National Border Patrol Council will vigorously defend them to ensure a spotlight is put on those responsible.

SAMBA Open Enrollment Period

The Special Agents Mutual Benefit Association (SAMBA) is currently offering a special open enrollment period for CBP during the month of July 2021.

Unfortunately, we have had employees in Del Rio Sector who passed away without life insurance or SAMBA, leaving it up to their families to sort out the expenses. We highly encourage employees to sign up for SAMBA, which pays either $17,500 or $35,000, depending on the plan you choose.

SAMBA advertises that the benefit is usually paid within 24 to 48 hours after notification of an employee’s death. However, there can be a much longer delay if CBP is slow when processing the paperwork, which happens quite often. Despite this, the death benefit provided by SAMBA is well worth the money.

Eligibility for the July 2021 open enrollment period applies to all permanent CBP employees who are currently in an active pay status (i.e., not on official leave, active military duty, or leave without pay status).

Enrollment began on July 1 and must be completed by July 31 to be effective on August 1, 2021. No extensions or exceptions to this timeline can be granted.

Enrollments must be made online (beginning July 1, 2021) through SAMBA’s website. To make an election:

  1. Go to Employee Benevolent Fund.
  2. Click on the Participating Federal Agencies button.
  3. Select CBP from the participating agency dropdown list.
  4. Follow the prompts to register on the SAMBA website and enroll for coverage.

Employees will pay an annual premium depending on the amount of coverage they elect. There are two coverage options:

  • $39 per year for a death benefit payment of $17,500; or,
  • $78 per year for a death benefit payment of $35,000.

NOTE: Annual premiums will be prorated for 2021, as new enrollments elected during this open enrollment period will not be made effective until August 1, 2021.

For coverage from August 1 through December 31, 2021, the prorated premiums will be approximately:

  1. $16.34 for a death benefit payment of $17,500; or,
  2. $32.67 for a death benefit payment of $35,000.

For more information on SAMBA’s EBF, call 800-638-6589, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ET, or send a secure email via the Contact Us option on the website.