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MCALLEN, Texas – Border Patrol union members are saying morale among their ranks is tanking under the Biden administration, blaming policies that allegedly encourage the massive southern border surge, reducing their capacity to catch criminals.
“Morale is in the toilet. I mean, I’ve been here 20 going on 21 years. I’ve never seen it this bad,” National Border Patrol Council spokesman Chris Cabrera told Fox News Digital.
“When you have all we have going on now with the administration just flat out calling our guys racists with the stuff that happened out in Eagle Pass or Del Rio, when you’re allowing people to come over and in a sense just flaunt the rules right in your face, we’re not doing what we’re hired to do,” Cabrera continued.
Cabrera made the comments ahead of a night tour of the border with Reps. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Kat Cammack, R-Fla, and Stephanie Bice, R-Okla. Fox News Digital and a group of Florida law enforcement officials joined the tour and witnessed dozens of migrants, including young children, being detained by law enforcement.
One teenage girl told the lawmakers it was not her first time crossing the border, and that she expected the government to bring her to family members in Tennessee.
“She’s originally from Honduras, actually lived in the U.S. for about five years with her aunt in Tennessee and traveled back to the border because her goal is to reunite with her aunt in Tennessee,” Bice said of her conversation with the girl. “She seemed very comfortable with the process. She knew what papers to bring and did not seem uncomfortable or scared about being taken in.”
Cabrera said that on many nights, officers are more focused on processing poor migrants who turn themselves in – like that teenage girl – than on catching criminals. That lack of focus in their duty, Cabrera said, leads to “smugglers going right past us and there’s… no manpower left to get him.”
The Border Patrol union representative said he places the blame for those issues on the Biden administration.
“Any time you have a new administration that comes in, I mean, it’s their ballgame. They get to make the rules,” Cabrera said. “But our thought is, if you’re gonna take something out of play, take a rule or policy out of play, you have to replace it with something.”
Cabrera added: “You just can’t pull it out. It’s like a bucket. If you’re gonna pull one bucket out that’s catching water, you’ve got to have another bucket in its spot. It seems here we just pulled all the buckets out just for the sake of pulling it out.”
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encounters at the southern border reached nearly 240,000 in May 2022. That is up from just over 180,000 at the same time in 2021 and 144,116 in 2019.
In the Rio Grande Valley where Fox News Digital toured the border with National Border Patrol Union members, encounters are up to 333,224 this year so far, compared to 272,300 through the same time in 2021. Encounters in the Rio Grande Valley were down in May 2022 compared to May 2021, however.
McAllen BPS Chief Union Representative Dominic Violante made similar comments in a briefing with reporters, calling administration policies “devastating” to morale.
“We joined to stop all those statistics, the fentanyl, the rapists, the murderers, the molesters, and those people are still out there,” Violante said. “If I’m over here with 100 women and kids, and this guy’s disabled, and that lady’s blind and, she’s pregnant going into contractions – that’s going to take hours of my time, and my partner’s time.”
Violante emphasized that officers feel “obligated” to help the vulnerable migrants who are crossing the border in droves, and they willingly do so. However, he said handling those issues takes focus away from stopping criminals from getting into the U.S.
“That’s hours that we’re not out there even counting the gotaways,” he said. “We’re not there to see the sign, or answer the cameras, or use the binoculars to even see the groups. And so not only are they not getting apprehended, they’re not even being detected after the fact.”
A high level CBP source confirmed to Fox News last week that there are 440,000 known gotaways since the beginning of the 2022 fiscal year last October, and more than 50,000 in May alone.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Chris Olivarez, meanwhile, said members of his agency patrolling the border feel “a lot of support” from state leadership. Nevertheless, he said, troopers working the border for Texas’ “Operation Lone Star” are feeling the stress of the massive migrant surge too.
“We have troopers that are away from their homes because they’re dedicated to their operation,” Olivarez said. “They’re taken away from their homes, you know, of course families, you know, all that gets, that becomes challenging for them as well… We’re trying to do as much as we can with what we have right now.”
Some hotels in southern Texas are packed with law enforcement officers. At one hotel in McAllen, Fox News witnessed droves of Texas Game Warden vehicles and officers, as well as National Guard troops. A Texas Game Warden officer said they were there at the order of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott supporting Operation Lone Star.
Olivarez joined Donalds, Cammack and Reps. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., and Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, on a boat tour of the Rio Grande Friday.
Officers showed the members the heavy Texas state and federal law enforcement presence along the river, as well as a section of privately constructed border wall between the river and farmers’ fields on the U.S. side.
The boat also stopped in several locations to tour landing spots for migrants who come across the Rio Grande in rafts. The brush along the riverbank in those spots was heavily trodden down, signaling large amounts of traffic had passed through.
Customs and Border Protection did not respond to a request for comment for this report.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin contributed to this report.