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US customs pulling airport officers, sending them to Arizona border

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reportedly been pulling officers from airports and sending them to the Arizona-Mexico border because of staffing shortages.

The Washington Post reported that 175 officers have been taken out of airports and sent to the Tucson sector to cover shifts through at least March.

Officials told the outlet that officers were being forced to work back-to-back eight hour shifts to help cover shortfalls.

“They are supposed to do their job with the same mental clarity and acuity,” said Anthony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 25,000 CBP employees, “but when you work 16-hour days, days on end, it’s a pretty difficult thing to do.”

In a statement to the Post, the agency said temporary reassignments were not unusual.

“These assignments are beneficial to both the temporary duty location and the permanent duty location as personnel return to their home ports with experience in a wider diversity of CBP operations and enhanced decision making skills,” the statement read.

Reardon estimated the agency needs about 3,700 more officers — 1,200 of which were unfilled positions — nationwide to be adequately staffed.

He said customs had signed a deal with a contractor to boost employment but a strict hiring process thins the pool of possible candidates.

Customs is an agency that has not received much attention by President Donald Trump’s administration. The president has called for the hiring of more than 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, though the number of illegal crossings was at its lowest point in nearly 50 years.

Congress authorized the hiring of 2,000 officers four years ago but the agency has not brought that many people on board. A Senate bill proposed this week would mandate 500 officers be hired each year until the agency is fully staffed.

Customs officers routinely scan an average of one million people and 67,000 cargo containers on a daily basis.

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