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Sequestration means U.S. Customs and Border Protection furloughs, longer wait times to cross border

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Across-the-board federal spending cuts known collectively as sequestration will force all border patrol agents to take unpaid time off unless Congress acts to restore funding.

Facing roughly $512 million in cuts in 2013 alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection already has issued furlough notices to its 60,000 employees, Swanton Sector spokeswoman Melissa Izaguirre said Monday.

The Swanton Sector stretches from Ogdensburg to northern New Hampshire.

“Reductions to Border Patrol overtime will begin on April 7 and furloughs of all Customs and Border Protection employees are expected to begin in mid-April,” Ms. Izaguirre said in an email.

Overtime reductions at ports of entry already have been implemented, she said.

The Swanton Sector covers 261 miles of the U.S.-Canada border and is staffed by 352 agents. Ms. Izaguirre said that for security reasons, the agency does not release the number of agents at each station.

Despite fewer agents on duty, she said, the agency will continue to do its job.

“We will continue to protect the border,” Ms. Izaguirre said. “Individuals apprehended illegally crossing the border will still be processed as usual.”

Fewer agents per shift also will affect border crossings.

Ms. Izaguirre said the agency “expects that planned furlough of employees, along with reductions to overtime and a hiring freeze will increase wait times at ports of entry, including international arrivals at airports, and reduced staffing between land ports of entry.”

She said the agency hopes to know the full extent of the effect by the end of the week.

“Because the length of the sequestration as well as funding levels through the end of the fiscal year are unknown at this time, it is difficult to project the impact of the reductions on individual employees or job occupations,” Ms. Izaguirre said.

The cuts to Customs and Border Protection are part of a sweeping $85 billion reduction in federal spending this year that went into effect last month.

Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, has cautioned that sequestration may last several months if Congress and President Obama are unable to reach a deal on more targeted federal spending cuts.

Ms. Izaguirre said every border patrol agent in the Swanton Sector will face furloughs “if no agreement is reached.”

A spokesman for the Buffalo Sector, which includes Jefferson County, could not be reached for comment Tuesday on how the cuts will affect border protection there.

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