WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Representatives Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) on Wednesday introduced the Taking Action to Prevent Suicide (TAPS) Act. The TAPS Act creates a comprehensive, anti-suicide task force to assess the underlying factors leading to high suicide rates at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This legislation is endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC).
“This year, 14 CBP agents and officers have taken their own life - that is 14 too many,” said Congressman Tony Gonzales. “Working long hours and responding to high-stress situations, our men and women in green and blue are being pushed to their breaking point every single day. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation with the support of my colleagues to help prevent the loss of another life at CBP.”
"The ongoing border crisis has highlighted the increased challenges CBP employees face every single day. Although the workforce has been dealing with suicides for many years, DHS has only recently tried to get a handle on it, and there is much to learn. We are happy to support this legislation in the hopes that we can encourage more employees to come forward for help,” said the National Border Patrol Council.
“Three CBP agents committed suicide last month. That marks 14 total suicides this year alone, almost more than any other year since 2007, when suicides were first tracked by CBP. This is unacceptable,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar. “The TAPs Act is a bipartisan measure designed to prevent further loss of life among CBP agents. I thank Rep. Tony Gonzales for his leadership and bipartisanship in working with me to deliver for the men and women in green and blue. As Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I look forward to working with my colleagues to provide relief for the CBP agents that keep South Texas safe.”
- Three Border Patrol agents committed suicide over the course of three weeks in November. This brings the 2022 suicide count at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to a staggering 14.
- This is part of a larger and historic trend. Between 2007 and November 2022, CBP has lost 149 people to suicide- among the highest rates compared to other law enforcement agencies.
- Recent appropriations have led to the hiring of additional mental health clinicians at CBP. However, there is still a shortage of mental health support, education, and destigmatization at the agency.
This bill will address CBP suicides by:
- IDENTIFICATION– the TAPS Act creates a comprehensive, anti-suicide task force to assess the underlying factors leading to high suicide rates at CBP.
- COMPOSITION– the task force will be comprised of leadership from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the labor unions representing Border Patrol agents, Customs officers, and experts in the field of suicide prevention policy. It will also incorporate the feedback of families related to affected CBP personnel.
- ACTION– Not later than 12 months after the task force has been assembled, the group will be required to submit a report containing recommendations for a comprehensive policy designed to prevent suicide and improve mental health resiliency initiatives at CBP. Specifically, the task force will examine:
1. Causal factors and trends related to suicides by CBP personnel
2. Methods to establish or improve suicide education and prevention programs at CBP
3. Methods to reduce stigma related to coming forward with a mental health issue at CBP
4. Methods to protect confidentiality and limit repercussions for CBP employees that receive mental health assistance.
- ACCOUNTABILITY- The Secretary of Homeland Security shall develop a plan based on task force recommendations and submit to the appropriate congressional committees not later than 180 days after enactment of this legislation.
Original co-sponsors of this legislation include Representatives Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN-03), Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), Jared Golden (D-ME-02), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-08) and Mayra Flores (R-TX-34).
Read the full text of the bill here.