Feb 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Border Patrol agents confront Homeland Security secretary in contentious meeting

In an aerial view, Immigrants walk towards a makeshift encampment along the U.S. border wall after crossing from Mexico through a gap in the structure on December 10, 2021 in Yuma, Arizona

Immigrants walk toward a makeshift encampment along the U.S. border wall after crossing from Mexico on Dec. 10 in Yuma, Ariz. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. Border Patrol agents grilled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at meetings last week on immigration policy, staffing concerns and COVID-19, among other topics, according to audio leaked from the meetings.

Why it matters: The hostile conversations underscore the growing tension between border patrol and lawmakers as illegal border crossings rise and the pandemic persists.

Driving the news: "I know the policies of this administration are not particularly popular with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but that's the reality and let's see what we can do within that framework," Mayorkas said, according to audio obtained by Townhall.

  • One Border Patrol agent in Yuma, Arizona, reportedly turned his back to Mayorkas, and said that the secretary had turned his back on agents when he was appointed.
  • "You can turn your back on me, but I'll never turn my back on you," Mayorkas said, according to the audio.
  • Mayorkas wrote in a tweet after the meeting in Yuma, "[I] heard Border Patrol agents loud and clear. ... I am fighting to get more resources they need."
  • A video obtained by journalist Ali Bradley also showed Border Patrol agents raising concerns about low retention and morale, and Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz acknowledged that "morale is at an all-time low," per the video.

What they're saying: "Secretary Mayorkas’s priority for this trip was to meet directly with the workforce to hear about their experiences and address their needs," a DHS spokesperson said in a statement.

  • "Secretary Mayorkas welcomes candor during these conversations, and appreciates and respects the opinions of each member of the CBP workforce."

The big picture: The agents reportedly expressed concerns over staffing issues and COVID-19 policies, including staff who did not want to get vaccinated, CNN reports.

Go deeper: U.S.-Mexico border patrol arrests reach all-time high

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.

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