The union, representing more than 16,500 Border Patrol agents, is hopeful the administration’s more proactive stance on border security will increase morale and the ability to enforce immigration law.
“We look forward to working with President Trump and his administration, especially General Kelly as we get back to enforcing the immigration laws of the U.S. and helping to improve Border Security,” said Shawn Moran, vice president of the NBPC, which endorsed Trump’s White House bid, breaking its longstanding practice of not endorsing presidential candidates.
“I believe many people who left the agency, left because they got sold a false bill of goods. They were told they were going to be doing this high-speed tactical job, and they are doing anything but that. I believe agents will get back to enforcing the law, and that will help to retain people.”
Certain policies have restricted the government’s ability to do its job in enforcing immigration law, according to Moran. He cited “catch and release,” in which undocumented immigrants are routinely released in the U.S. after apprehension, a policy Trump refers to in the executive order he signed last month as something that will be terminated.
Moran also spoke out regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy enacted by the Obama administration, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferrable action, saying these were among the policies creating barriers to enforcing immigration law for the agency.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The border wall was a major campaign talking point for Trump, and one of the first things he took action on once in office.
Late Thursday, more details came to light regarding the price tag of the wall, and what it might look like. According to Reuters, the “wall” would, in fact, be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion — much higher than the $12 billion to $15 billion cost cited by Trump, his campaign staff, the Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Reuters cited a Department of Homeland Security internal report, expected to be presented to DHS Secretary John Kelly in the near future, which also said the wall would take more than three years to build.
“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on or confirm the potential existence of pre-decisional, deliberative documents,” DHS acting press secretary Gillian Christensen said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the report. Trump has said Congress should fund the building of the wall upfront and that taxpayers will be reimbursed at a later date by Mexico. Mexico, in turn, has said it will not pay for the wall’s construction.
The union’s Moran stopped short of a full endorsement of the wall, telling CNBC: “Our advice to the Trump administration has been to look at each sector, and in some cases, each Border Patrol station’s area from a tactical and strategic viewpoint to see where we need further infrastructure.” He added that options may include a wall and further fencing, including double-layer fencing.
“I think you need some kind of physical barrier — it’s been shown throughout our history and since we started Operation Gatekeeper that barriers work,” he said. “We can take the lessons learned from places like San Diego, El Paso, and Tucson where we have significant amounts of fencing and see what works.”
Part of Trump’s executive order includes hiring an additional 5,000 agents, something that will prove to be a challenge as the agency is already actively recruiting to fill some 1,700 positions this year to meet its staffing goals of more than 21,000 agents. Between 55,000 and 65,000 applications are received in any given year, although many don’t make it past the initial screening process — about 1 in 175 applicants will become an agent. Beyond that, retaining new hires can be a challenge as many of the agency’s positions are in remote areas that include difficult climates and terrain.
Moran, who says poor recruiting tactics and morale have led to attrition and unqualified hires in previous administrations, admits the additional staffing will be a challenge.
“The Obama administration was utterly neglectful in maintaining the positions within the Border Patrol — we lost 1,700 positions they refused to fill. To put that in perspective, that’s the size of a medium Border Patrol sector. … That has a real impact on border security. President Trump has said that Border Patrol agents are going to get back to the job they were hired to do, and I do know that has increased morale,” he said.