EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Border lawmakers are filing a bill creating a task force to investigate a rising number of suicides among stressed-out, overworked border agents.
The Taking Action to Prevent Suicides Act (TAPS) comes in response to the passing away of 14 U.S. Border Protection employees this year. Three U.S. Border Patrol agents took their own lives in November alone.
“Fourteen CBP agents and officers have taken their own life – that is 14 too many,” said U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, cosponsor of the TAPS Act. “Working long hours and responding to high-stress situations, our men and women in green and blue are being pushed to their breaking point every single day.”
The union that represents thousands of U.S. Border Patrol agents supports the bill.
“The ongoing border crisis has highlighted the increased challenges CBP employees face every single day. Although (border agents) have been dealing with suicides for many years, the Department of Homeland Security has only recently tried to get a handle on it, and there is much to learn,” the National Border Patrol Council said in a statement. “We are happy to support this legislation in the hopes that we can encourage more employees to come forward for help.”
Border Patrol agents and customs officers working longer hours due to the 4-year-old migrant crisis that has only accelerated this year; agents are transporting, processing and taking care of migrants in addition to guarding the border, sponsors said.
The bill creates the task force focused on identifying the leading causes of the suicides, mandates consultation with suicide prevention experts, feedback from families and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a plan based on the task force suggestions and submit it to Congress no later than 180 days of passage of the bipartisan legislation.
“The TAPS Act is a bipartisan measure designed to prevent further loss of life among CBP agents,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, vice chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. “I thank Rep. Gonzales in working with me to deliver for the men and women in green and blue.”