(CNSNews.com) - Mark Morgan, the head of the U.S. Border Patrol, told Congress on Tuesday that in his first few months on the job, he's learned that the men and women who carry out the "never-ending mission" often do so at personal risk to themselves.
"You know, the numbers we often hear associated with the United States Border Patrol are the numbers of annual apprehensions of those attempting to illegally enter the country every year. It's hundreds of thousands.
"I'd like to take a few minutes to also share some other numbers that we don't often talk about," Morgan told a House Homeland Security subcommittee.
"I've learned that the United States Border Patrol agents are among the most assaulted law enforcement personnel in the country. There have been 7,542 assaults against agents since 2006, and 30 agents have died in the line of duty since 2003."
Morgan mentioned the recent death of Border Patrol Agent Manuel Alvarez, who died in a motorcycle accident while patrolling the Tohono O'Odham Nation Reservation south of Sells, Arizona. His death "serves as a vivid reminder of the dangerous, challenging and unique environment Border Patrol agents are asked to experience," Morgan said.
"Another number which often gets little mention is how often Border Patrol agents put themselves in harm's way to provide emergency medical care and assistance to those in need, to include those that are trying to illegally enter the United States," Morgan said.
He noted that every year, the U.S. Border Patrol rescues thousands of victims of human smuggling and others attempting to cross the desert to get into the U.S.
He said the Border Patrol rescued more than 3,700 people this fiscal year alone, including people who were drowning in the Rio Grande, people who fell into an open pit mine in Arizona, and a family rescued from a burning house in the Buffalo Sector in the middle of the night.
Morgan, the first outsider to lead the agency, was asked if he has enough agents to do the job.
"My first immediate answer is, I don't know yet when it comes to the personnel." He said he needs to consider "resource allocation" and whether infrastructure and technology could "impact the need for additional agents."
He said he's also looking at what agents are doing. "Basically, are the agents where they need to be?" he asked. "I don't know. I don’t know. I'm taking a look at that. I'm asking those questions."
President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 budget request states that there are 21,370 Border Patrol agents.