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Uniforms' Labels Irk U.S. Agents

THE NATION

June 12, 2004|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — Some agents for the U.S. Border Patrol are irate over 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, Fla.-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 an article published Friday that they were trying to get as much as they could 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 say only that their contract allowed them to manufacture in Mexico.

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, criticized the purchase of uniforms from Mexico. Having agent uniforms made in Mexico is just the wrong thing to do, he said. "It's the wrong message."

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