The Border Patrol Pay Security Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar from the 28th Congressional district of Texas, would improve pay for agents working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If approved, H.R. 2335 would allow border agents to regain access to overtime compensation as was previously called for within the Fair Labor Standards Act. By reinstating overtime pay for specific duties, the act would align pay for border agents with the compensation earned by other federal law enforcement agents.

Cuellar said that low pay for border agents has caused a staffing shortage at the CBP. The agency’s ongoing difficulty with recruitment and retention has begun to interfere with its ability to perform duties. In addition to inhibiting border security, the insufficient staff levels have caused delays of legal trade at ports of entry, he said.

The demanding nature of border patrol work also decreases the appeal of working for CBP. The lack of competitive pay motivates agents to retire or seek employment in law enforcement positions that pay overtime, offer consistent work schedules and often require less physical exertion.

Although legislative efforts might allow border agents to receive overtime pay in the future; many workers do not have anyone who will advocate for their needs unless they seek legal representation. An attorney might support a person who needs to confront an employer over unpaid overtime, failure to pay minimum wage or denied breaks. After looking at the evidence, an attorney could determine if the employer broke wage and hour laws. When an attorney communicates a claim to an employer, the person might avoid retaliation for complaining and collect back pay.