Border Patrol prepares to address non-compliant unvaccinated agents

A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands near the Rio Grande on July 16, 2021, near Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Border Patrol agents who missed the vaccination deadline under the COVID-19 vaccine mandate will begin receiving letters of counseling to enforce compliance or begin the disciplinary process, including termination, according to information shared with The Monitor. 

Administration officials were recently instructed on the process to bring employees who failed to meet the Department of Homeland Security’s deadline of Nov. 22. 

Letters were first sent to all DHS employees, including Border Patrol agents, informing them of the upcoming deadline on Nov. 8.

Agents received an update on the rate of compliance last Monday, the deadline, informing them that 79% of agents were vaccinated, 16% were not vaccinated but submitted a request for reasonable accommodation, and 5% of employees were considered non-compliant. 

Border Patrol employees were required to fill out attestation documentation in the Vaccination Status System, or VSS, whether they were vaccinated or not by the deadline. If they were not vaccinated, they were also required to submit a reasonable accommodation request on medical or religious grounds.

Those who failed to submit their attestation paperwork but submitted their reasonable accommodation request will be considered non-compliant, according to information shared with The Monitor.

All who did not comply with the mandate by Nov. 22 will be receiving letters of counseling.

Agents will have five days after they receive the letter to come under compliance. They will need to complete their VSS documentation if they are already vaccinated, or receive the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine or the first of two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and update their VSS status.

Those who miss the five-day window will be categorized in three groups.

If an employee has not had prior discipline for failing to follow instructions or orders in the last two years, the agent will go before a disciplinary review board composed of agency executives. They will decide on the discipline which can escalate up to termination if there is no effort made to comply.

Agents who were disciplined for failing to follow instructions or orders within the last two years will also be sent before the same board, but they will be reprimanded depending on their last discipline which will range from non-adverse disciplinary action up to termination.

Agents who are still in their probationary period and do not comply within the five days of receiving their letters will be terminated.

Over 3,300 Border Patrol agents across the agency requested special accommodation on medical or religious grounds. If they submitted a request but did not file their VSS attestation paperwork, they will be receiving a letter of counseling, too.

Those who submitted the VSS attestation paperwork and have a request for reasonable accommodation pending will be considered to be in compliance with the mandate until a decision on their request is handed down by a group of executives who will begin looking at requests starting in early December.