Q&A: Border Patrol El Paso sector describes how the agency is working through the COVID-19 pandemic

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The Border Patrol El Paso sector is adjusting its organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KTSM 9 News spoke with Chief Patrol Agent, Gloria Chavez, to find out how the agency is working through the pandemic.

You can read the full Q&A below:

KTSM: How has the COVID-19 pandemic infected your operations?

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez speaks to Spanish-language media following a news conference by Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan near the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Chavez, a native of south Texas and a fluent Spanish speaker replaced her predecessor in July following revelations of overcrowding and squalor in adult and child holding cells in the El Paso sector, which includes New Mexico and West Texas. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Gloria Chavez: “The utmost priority is that we keep our workforce healthy and safe through this COVID-19. We want to ensure their well-being so, therefore, there’s a lot of efforts invested in making sure that the appropriate personal protective equipment is available and we encourage them to use it.”

KTSM: How many agents have tested positive?

Gloria Chavez: “We have had three agents test positive for COVID-19 here in the El Paso Sector region and they are at home safely recovering from this virus.”

KTSM: What is the policy or procedure when staff tests positive? Do they self report their test results?

Gloria Chavez: “They do, our agents when they get positive results for example from a COVID-19 test they report it to the chain of command and then the chain of command is able to assess and evaluate and continue to monitor the agent. We do ask our agents or our personnel, the workforce that is affected positively by COVID-19 to ensure that they stay in touch with us and that they let us know how they’re doing so that we continue to monitor their health status.”

KTSM: Have you seen a decrease or increase in the number of people trying to cross illegally compared to this time last year?

Gloria Chavez: “So we have seen a decrease in apprehensions in the El Paso sector. We have decreased by 64%. Last year during this time we apprehended about 71 thousand people this year we’ve apprehended 25,000.”

KTSM: There have been recruiting and hiring efforts before the pandemic, are those still active? Do you have openings and can people still apply?

Gloria Chavez: “We do, there’s a huge effort to continue to recruit people to join the Border Patrol. Obviously COVID-19 has limited our opportunities to be in person at various locations to do this. However, we’ve taken advantage of technology and done much promotion and marketing through virtual technology and it’s really helped a lot. You know one of the areas that I use a lot is my Twitter and Instagram to be able to recruit folks that are interested in joining the agency.”

KTSM: What is your message to your agents and support staff during this time?

Gloria Chavez: “Well first and foremost I’m extremely proud of the workforce and what they do every day. I mean they sacrifice so much already doing the patrols that they do every day on the front line. Our behind the scenes personnel is just critical to our mission so right now my message to them is to continue protecting themselves, use the personal protective equipment that we’ve issued them. You know we have about fifty percent of the civilian workforce already working from home just to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so I want them to continue using those efforts and prevention efforts and continuing to follow CDC guidelines so I thank you for the question as we rarely get the opportunity to say thank you to the workforce and I want to extend that thank you to them.”

KTSM: What is it like to lead during this challenging time?

Gloria Chavez: “Well El Paso is not new to challenges, last year was a huge challenge for us here in the sector especially with a huge influx of families and children through the region. So this time around COVID-19 its just that other challenge that now we’re dealing with. We’ve adjusted operationally and we’re adjusting administratively. We have a very resilient workforce a very skilled workforce that is prepared. CBP nationwide is prepared to address this pandemic and we will continue to do exactly that anytime we encounter a challenge like this.

KTSM: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Gloria Chavez: Sure for those of you interested in getting updates from the U.S. Border Patrol and everything we do on this border please follow me on Twitter and Instagram for further updates thank you.

To learn more about career opportunities in the Border Patrol click here.

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