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Sunday, June 13, 2004

KGBT 4 - TV Harlingen, TX: Border Patrol Uniforms Made in Mexico

KGBT 4 - TV Harlingen, TX: Border Patrol Uniforms Made in Mexico

WASHINGTON
Border Patrol Uniforms Made in Mexico
JUNE 11, 2004 - Some agents for the U.S. Border Patrol are irate at what they see in their new uniforms: a "Made in Mexico" label.

"I just received a half-dozen new shirts, pants - and the labels all say they are made in Mexico," said Rich Pierce, a Tampa-based agent and executive vice president of the 16,000-member National Border Patrol Council, the agents' union.

"Why can't we have uniforms made in the U.S.? ... The other agents I've talked to all think this is some bad joke."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told The Arizona Republic in a Washington-dated story published Friday that they are trying to get as much as they can for their money.

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jim Mitchie said, "We are buying American. But we're also buying elsewhere."

The agency contracts with VF Solutions of Nashville to supply 30,000 border agents and customs inspectors with uniforms for the current fiscal year. The $30 million contract allows the company to subcontract work to plants in the United States, Mexico, Canada and the Dominican Republic.

Officials at VF Solutions would only say that their contract allows them to manufacture in Mexico.

Mitchie said the agency is simply trying to get as much as it can for its money.

He added that the bottom line is, "Our Border Patrol agents are very well-dressed, well-uniformed and neat and clean. And that's how it should be."

But T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, noted that the agency might be saving money, but the cost of the uniform has gone up slightly for agents, who get a uniform allowance.

Having agent uniforms made in Mexico is just the wrong thing to do, he said. "It's the wrong message."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All



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