CBP furlough notices could leave border wide open - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

CBP furlough notices could leave border wide open

PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Soon 60,000 Customs and Border Protection agents could be told to stay home. Furlough notices went out late last week to agents in Arizona and across the country.

Art Del Cueto is the president of the Tucson Custom and Border Protection Union. He represents 3,500 members.

"There is a lot of confusion right now with the agents not knowing what's going to happen," said Del Cueto.

Customs and Border Patrol agents are in Washington's crosshairs, the target of sequestration budget cuts. If politicians don't get their act together by April 21, Del Cueto said most agents will see their income cut by 40 percent.

Part of that comes from having to take up to 14 unpaid days off work. But the biggest hit to agents and border security comes from a cut to overtime.

"There are going to be gaps in the amount of agents that are actually patrolling," said Del Cueto.

Former DEA Special Agent in Charge Phil Jordan said if this should go into effect there's more to worry about than undocumented immigrants coming across the border to look for work.

"The politicians should focus on the radical Muslims as well as the increase in methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine. The cartels will wait until that time when the vigilance is not that high and therefore they can stockpile drugs on the other side and start moving them across," said Jordan.

For now there are still many what-ifs, and that uncertainty is already taking its toll.

"The people who still wear the uniform and the people in charge in Washington need to realize they cannot use our families and our agents as political pawns," said Del Cueto.

Copyright2013 CBS 5 (KPHO BroadcastingCorporation). All rights reserved.

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