If you thought morale in the U.S. Border Patrol could not get any lower, along comes mandatory overtime.
Del Rio Sector management has determined the only way to handle the immigration crisis in our sector is to mandate overtime – we are doing it this pay period, and funding has been approved for next pay period. It’s officially being used for processing purposes, but agents are left standing around with nothing to do, as many of you have seen. There are too many agents on the schedule, or agents aren’t efficiently deployed because supervisors don’t want to send them into the field since there will eventually be another group to process.
The union does not agree with overtime being mandated, and we certainly don’t agree with it being mandated for only processing. If overtime is going to be mandated, it should be used to put more agents in the field so we can arrest the illegal aliens crossing the border who are not turning themselves in.
By using overtime only to try to speed up the processing of family units, we are just encouraging more people to enter the country illegally. If we used the overtime to go after the illegal aliens crossing the border with the intent to get away from us, we would eventually see fewer single adults crossing in Del Rio Sector. Instead, they know we’re too busy to chase them, so they have a good chance of getting away.
By law, the agency has the right to mandate overtime, but they should be soliciting volunteers who might be willing to take overtime days for other agents. There are some agents who want all the overtime they can get, so they can work overtime in place of senior agents who don’t want to work overtime. As long as a location has volunteers, there isn’t a need to mandate, but we all know volunteers will run out eventually, if they have not already.
Sector told us that all GS-13s, including supervisors, BPA-Ps, BPA-Is, SOSes, and others, will be mandated to work overtime, but so far, we’re not seeing that happen everywhere. In the stations that are mandating overtime for supervisors, they indicated the supervisors would be doing administrative duties – not processing – and in one station, management said the supervisors are already “too busy and overworked” to work overtime, which is just not true. Another station said their supervisors will only be screening files, suggesting they are too good for actual processing.
And of course we hear some supervisors and managers say they will hit the biweekly pay cap if they work any overtime. That’s nonsense for the vast majority of supervisors, but even if they can only work half of a day, that’s better than nothing at all. If supervisors and managers want to garner some respect from their agents, they will grab a file and process with everyone else.
As much as the agency loves to remind us that we are all supposed to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, mandating overtime in this fashion is hardly that. Our arrest numbers, although high, remain relatively steady, and so are the detention numbers, showing that having all of these extra agents on duty is not making a noticeable difference. When our holding facilities are filled primarily with single adults – many of who are trying to get away from us – we essentially become jail guards. Since we are not in the field to deter or arrest other single adults, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and nothing changes.
We can only hope that Del Rio Sector will use overtime to address other problems in our sector that need more attention. For example, we continue to lack OWCP training, so some supervisors either give incorrect information or have no information to provide to an injured or sick employee when they need help the most. Memos and other requests sent to Sector take 3-4 weeks or more to get approved or denied. Meanwhile, employees – some facing exigent circumstances – are anxiously waiting for an answer while the memo sits on a manager’s desk for weeks. The agency has taken dozens of agents out of the field for Intel or Programs positions, but then claims we don’t have enough agents in the field.
Things are likely going to get worse before they get better, so the union will continue to work toward ensuring employee rights are not violated. If you find yourself working overtime and have nothing to do, ask a supervisor if you can go to the field. If you see problems with the way your station is assigning work or handling processing, bring it to the attention of your supervisor and a union rep. The agency is doing nothing to ensure that agents’ days off are not being wasted with unnecessary overtime, so we need to hear from you when this happens.