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Border security workers miss paychecks because of shutdown over border security

Molly O'Toole, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump saluted a Blackhawk helicopter hovering over the Rio Grande on Thursday, seeking to highlight the need for $5.7 billion for his trademark border wall to stop what he calls an "invasion."

Next to the president stood a Customs and Border Protection officer and a Border Patrol agent. Both were working unpaid during the partial government shutdown, which on Friday tied the record for the longest in U.S. history.

Among the roughly 800,000 federal employees who've gone without pay in the three weeks since the shutdown began are tens of thousands of Border Patrol agents, Customs and Border Protection officers, immigration judges and Coast Guard crews -- the workers on the frontlines of the border security problems that the White House and Congress have been fighting over.

That irony is not lost on workers such as Terence Shigg, a Border Patrol agent at a checkpoint in San Clemente. Shigg took on a second job as a private contractor years ago, learning from his mother's experience raising four kids on her own on a federal salary.

"One thing I've learned working for the federal government is always have a backup plan," said Shigg. He supports more miles of fencing on the border along with other resources, he says, but "I am not in favor of a shutdown."

"That one paycheck is a big deal," he said. "It's not something that you just can lightly dismiss."

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The president insists he has federal workers' support for doubling down on the shutdown, saying they will "make adjustments."

"I appreciate their service to the country, they're incredible people, but many of them agree with what I'm saying," he said Friday following a White House session on border security.

But as government employees grapple with growing financial stress, pressure is mounting to resolve the impasse. Two unions have filed suit against the Trump administration so far, including the one that represents Customs and Border Protection officers.

Vice President Mike Pence told Customs and Border Protection personnel in a Friday afternoon meeting to "focus on the mission."

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