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After 4 officers get virus in El Paso, union says CBP is risking more infections

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection patch on the uniform of an agent.
Getty Images via CNN
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection patch on the uniform of an agent.

EL PASO, Texas -- A new police change, recently enacted by acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, is putting the health and safety of CBP officers at risk, according to the National Treasury Employees Union.

The "Weather and Safety Leave" policy allowed CBP to adjust officers schedules during this coronavirus pandemic by reducing staffing to create more distance between employees and by reducing the officers' contact with the public.

But now that policy has been canceled by Morgan, effective immediately.

"They're being exposed not only to the travelers, but to each other," said John Monahan, the local president of NTEU. "Then once they get off of work, they're going to go out into the community and this is how Covid-19 is spreading."

Monahan told ABC-7 that CBP made the decision to cancel the policy to allow CBP officers to help the U.S. Border Patrol between ports of entry. Union officials say there is no evidence to support that any help is needed.

According to CBP officials, pedestrian and vehicle crossings at ports of entry are down 72 percent nationally after only allowing essential travelers to pass through.

"We understand when it's time to work, it's time to work, but when it's unnecessary work and you're putting the officers health at risk, it's just not the way it supposed to be," said Monahan.

The cancellation also comes after CBP announced 160 officers tested positive for Covid-19 agency-wide, including four in El Paso.

"We're worried about contracting Covid-19, so they're worried cause they're out there every single day," Monahan told ABC-7.

In a letter sent to Morgan, the union writes, "I am asking you to do right by the CBP officers serving our country at our nation’s land borders and reverse this short-sighted decision. "

ABC-7 did reach out to CBP for comment, but has yet to hear back.

Article Topic Follows: Border

Shelby Montgomery

Las Cruces native Shelby Montgomery is an ABC-7 reporter who also co-anchors Good Morning El Paso weekends.

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