The coronavirus took an immediate toll on U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and in the first months of the outbreak, the agency’s memorial pages highlighted the sacrifices of those killed through “diligent service to country during a worldwide pandemic.”
Dozens more names have been added to the memorial since then, marking the deadliest span in the agency’s history. But in recent months, CBP has not called attention to the deadly pathogen that killed them, leaving out any mention of the virus.
Police departments across the country are struggling with vaccine hesitancy, but at CBP, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, the politics are especially fraught. With immigration arrests along the Mexican border soaring to the highest levels in decades, Republican lawmakers blame the Biden administration’s policies for exposing U.S. agents to greater risk, even as they denounce vaccine mandates that would help protect them.
“It is simply unbelievable that the Biden administration will allow COVID-positive illegal aliens to surge across the border but will terminate dedicated law-enforcement officers who do not comply with President Biden’s mandate,” they wrote.
DHS officials have said they want to protect their workforce, not fire them.
Several agents said they expect most of their co-workers will eventually relent and grudgingly get the vaccine, including one, a paramedic working in the Rio Grande Valley, who said he’d take the “least-worst one.”
“Just because I work for the government doesn’t mean I trust them,” said the agent, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
“Those who don’t want it should not be forced to take it under duress or the threat of job loss,” he said. The mandate allows exemptions for those with medical or religious beliefs.
Another border agent in Arizona who supports the vaccine and got his shots early this year said he’s seen his co-workers “furious” about Biden’s mandate.
“If anything it’s made them more defiant,” he said. “It’s become a point of pride for some agents, saying they’ll never get it. I suspect more agents will get it, but they’re going to wait until the last minute.”
The agent said he’s gotten so accustomed to placing a black mourning bands over his badge that “it’s just easier to leave it on all the time now.”
“There have been so many deaths,” he said. “It seems like the flags are always flying at half-staff.”
Dying for whiteness, indeed.