WASHINGTON—Fourteen Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents who worked at the southern border committed suicide this year, according to members of Congress.
The Republican and Democrat lawmakers released the grim, and growing, tally during a press conference on Dec. 7 at the House Triangle.
Between 2007 and Nov. 2022, a total of 149 CBP agents located at the U.S. southern border took their lives.
CBP agents are exposed to traumatic experiences that affect their lives, said the lawmakers, noting that it’s common for law enforcement officers to keep their mental health needs to themselves.
CBP agents feel abandoned by the current administration, Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) said, referring to President Joe Biden’s recent remarks.
When asked on Dec. 6 why he wasn’t going to the border while visiting a border state, Biden told reporters at the White House it was “because there are more important things going on.”
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) said, “While in Washington, there’s a lot that divides us in policy and often drives us in a lot of different directions, but there are a lot of things that should unite us.”
During the 2022 fiscal year, $23 million has been allocated to the mental health of CBP agents, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said, adding that the same budget for the 2023 fiscal year will be the same.
The Taking Action to Prevent Suicide (TAPS) Act would allow CBP agents to freely speak with health care professionals without fear of losing their jobs as well as increase the number of local behavioral health specialists with the expertise to provide psychological assistance to CBP officers.
If there are no health care experts in the agency, Cuellar said, the government should work with local organizations to provide what the CBP agents need for their mental health.
“Until we take out the fear of law enforcement coming forward and talking about their mental health issues, they’re never going to do it,” said Brandon Judd, president of the Border Patrol Union.