Union voices concerns as local customs officials transfer to southern border

wwny Union voices concerns as local customs officials transfer to southern border

MASSENA, N.Y. (WWNY) - Customs and Border Protection officers from Massena and other crossing points are heading to the Mexican border. The government acknowledges that could mean longer waits at border crossings.

“The enforcement mission is first and foremost and we will always ensure that that enforcement and security mission is our priority,” said Aaron Bowker, U.S. Customs and Border Protection public affairs liaison.

The union for officers says it has already heard of longer wait times and it’s concerned about the stress on officers suddenly told they will go from working at border crossings in the north to detention centers near the southern border.

“Basically they’re assisting in the detention facilities. Whether it be feeding people, changing diapers, pretty much anything they can be of use down there,” said Jamey Goheens, Chapter 138 National Treasury Employees Union president.

Goheens said some officers have volunteered for the temporary assignments, but most are forced. And it’s often on short notice – giving them little time to put things right at home.

“It’s hard for them to get child care together in a short amount of time, elderly care. We have had members that have had to move their elderly parents to senior citizen homes.” said Goheens.

The Customs and Border Protection agency says the union contract is being adhered to for temporary assignments under “Operation Southern Support.”

“We provide as much information about where they are going, the conditions that they are going to be working in, and what the expectations are,” said Bowker.

Some progress has been made in Washington.

Congress just appropriated $4.6 billion to help with the crisis at the southern border.

But Goheens says it takes more than a year to fully train an officer for border work.

“Like I say, ‘Money is great, but we need the bodies.’ We need help,” he said.

That means the temporary assignments will likely go on for some time. Goheens says so far there’s no sign they are letting up.

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