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Border Patrol union: US-Mexico border wall needed only in 'strategic locations

U.S. Border Patrol agents monitor the U.S.-Mexico border fence at the Imperial Sand Dunes on Nov. 17, 2016, near Felicity, California. The leader of the union representing Border Patrol agents said the U.S.-Mexico border wall is only needed in “strategic locations.” (John Moore/Getty Images)

The leader of the union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents says there doesn’t need to be a full wall along the United States-Mexico border. Instead, he argues, there needs to be a barrier in “strategic locations.”

“We don’t need a great wall of the United States. We do not need 2,000 miles of border wall. I will tell you, however, that a wall in strategic locations is absolutely necessary,” Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said, ABC News reported.

The union president did, however, admit that the current wall — which is made largely of fencing — “can be defeated” in its present state, noting that he has spent time locating holes in the southwestern border.

Judd shared his analysis during a Senate hearing on staffing issues for Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“If we do a wall and we do it properly on the border, we can, in fact, effectuate a better arrest rate and we can, in fact, secure the border,” Judd continued. “Before we do that, we have to address the current issues that we have.”

Ron Vitiello, who was sworn-in as Border Patrol chief last week, told ABC that the No. 1 priority should be upping the number of boots on the ground because “somebody has to arrest the people who are going to continue to attempt to enter, even if there is a border wall.”

And it appears that’s a reality President Donald Trump plans to address. In mid-February, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly instructed the agency to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents and 10,000 new ICE officials to tackle increased border enforcement measures.

Kelly’s directive came as a result of an immigration-related executive order Trump signed in late January, which called for the removal of illegal immigrants who “have been convicted of any criminal offense,” “have been charged with any criminal offense,” “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” or “are subject to a final order of removal.”

Judd told senators that the Border Patrol loses more than 1,000 agents every year. The biggest issue, he said, is the fact that agents can get paid more for similar work if they move over to ICE. Without pay parity, there will be a “mass exodus to ICE when ICE starts hiring,” Judd warned.

Customs and Border Protection is facing similar issues, said Anthony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents the agency. He described the shortage of CBP officers as “staggering” in his testimony before the Senate.

“There is no greater roadblock to legitimate trade and travel efficiency and stopping illicit trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money than the lack of sufficient staff at the ports,” Reardon said.

The CBP is currently 1,400 staffers short, and Reardon is calling on Congress to add enough funding to the agency in order to hire the 2,100 agents needed to meet 2017 staffing needs, according to a news release from the NTEU.

Both ICE and Border Patrol unions endorsed Trump during the presidential campaign last year. Moving forward, officials from both agencies have said there need to be major reforms.

Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, described ICE’s management culture as “toxic and failed.” He said the agency is a “good ole’ boy” network known to reward bad behavior with little accountability.

Crane said employees have in the past refused to report misconduct and poor management by supervisors because they did not trust the DHS, which is responsible for overseeing agencies like ICE and CBP and would be tasked with carrying out an internal investigation into supervisory problems.

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