Courtesy at the border

Miss Manners, where are you? U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials need your help.

In an unprecedented move, Robert Bonner, CBP commissioner, announced an initiative to make border and customs agents friendlier to travelers coming into the country.

He called on the workers to always be on their best behavior. Leave the surliness at home and keep smiling, he said at a press conference, during which he announced the new program.

CBP "is the guardian of this country's borders, but it is also the face of our nation and the U.S. government to all who enter our control," Bonner said Aug. 26.

As part of the initiative, officials are posting a pledge at airports, seaports and land border ports that promises officials will "treat you with courtesy, dignity and pledge to explain the CBP process to you," according to the pledge.

Bonner also will allow supervisors at border locations to solve issues with travelers without detaining them. Of CBP's more than 41,000 employees, the pledge applies to half of them who handle border passages.

As part of Bonner's initiative, officials will set up a code of conduct, a training course for employees and a system for tracking travelers' complaints.

He said recent complaints have been about rudeness, prompting his actions. "I expect professionalism and courtesy to be the hallmark of every CBP officer," Bonner said.

But other issues may have caused these problems, union representatives said.

A survey of 500 border patrol agents for the American Federation of Government Employees found low morale and skepticism about homeland security efforts.

A majority of the 500 workers surveyed said they didn't have the tools, training or support needed to stop potential terrorists from entering the country.

"Almost half of those surveyed had considered leaving or looking for another job," said T.J. Bonner, president of AFGE's National Border Patrol Council, who is not related to Robert Bonner.

The Homeland Security Department's "One Face at the Border" initiative, which combines three jobs into one, is not working, according to the agents surveyed. Nearly half of them questioned the procedures that have been put in place.

Morale problems at the border

A survey of 500 border protection employees commissioned by the American Federation of Government Employees found low morale and

feelings of unhappiness at the workplace. Some of the survey results:

How would you rate the overall morale today of the people you work with?

31% — Very low

29% — Somewhat low

31% — Somewhat high

8% — Very high

1% — Not sure

During the past two years, have you considered leaving your job?

45% — Considered leaving job

54% — Have not considered leaving job

Source: Survey conducted for American Federation of Government Employees by Hart Research from July 30

to Aug. 7. The survey's margin of error is 4.5 percent.

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