U.S. Border Patrol Uniforms Manufactured in Mexico

March 25, 2013 - 4:19 AM
Border Patrol agent patdown

A Customs and Border Protection Border agent pats down a man before he is returned to Mexico. (Photo: CBP/Gerald L. Nino)

(CNSNews.com) - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has granted uniform contracts to VF Imagewear, Inc., an apparel company that relies on manufacturing sites in Mexico for a “significant percentage” of its occupational garments.

The latest contract with the company was awarded on Dec. 20, 2012, to make “uniform and insignia items” for the CBP at an estimated cost of $6,157,997.57, and a ceiling of $8 million.

The CBP, which is responsible for protecting America’s borders, told CNSNews.com that items from VF Imagewear, a subsidiary of VF Corporation, are manufactured in a number of locations, “including Mexico.”

“There are no domestic preference regulations or statutes applicable to DHS/CBP that would prohibit the manufacture of uniform items in Mexico,” the CBP said.  “In fact, United States obligations under International Agreements require that the Agency accept items manufactured in Mexico.”

“Consistent with the foregoing, VF is permitted to provide items manufactured in Mexico under the current contract,” the agency said.

According to the company’s 2012 annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), “VF operates manufacturing facilities in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East.”

“A significant percentage of denim bottoms and occupational apparel are manufactured in these plants, as well as a smaller percentage of footwear,” the report says.  Occupational apparel refers to uniforms made by VF Imagewear.  The company supplies uniforms for a variety of industries, including transportation, hospitality, food service and for the NFL, MLB and Harley-Davidson.

Manufacturing for Major League Baseball uniforms, however, occurs in the United States, according to the annual report.

VF Imagewear also maintains websites for the uniform programs for the CBP, the Fire Department of New York City, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the National Park Service.  “These websites provide the employees of our customers with the convenience of shopping for their work and career apparel via the Internet,” the report states.

According to VF Imagewear’s 2011 annual report, the manufacturing facilities located in Mexico, Central America and the Middle East are responsible for “cutting, sewing and finishing” of denim garments and uniforms.

The CBP said that they have recently concluded two contracts with VF Imagewear for uniforms, “a limited contract to provide uniforms for training academies and hardship and disaster situations and a contract to provide quartermaster services at the training academies.”

Currently, VF Imagewear has a contract for the short-term manufacture of uniforms and insignias, awarded in December.  The contract is a result of the continuing resolution (CR) passed by Congress last year, which mandated the CBP to maintain specific levels of Border Patrol Agents, Field Officers and Air and Marine Agents.

The CBP estimated that it needed to enroll an additional 850 students in its academies to comply with the mandate, which would require 3,400 uniforms.

The agreement will also allow the CBP to replace uniforms for border patrol agents, according to the agency’s justification and approval for the contract.

“[B]order patrol agents are often called upon to chase illegal aliens into contaminated waters, such as the Rio Grande River,” it reads.  “In these situations, CBP's protocol provides that uniforms worn in those situations must be destroyed because they are considered hazardous materials.”

“This interim uniform contract will allow the uniformed personnel to replace ruined uniforms so that they may continue to perform their duties in the event of a disaster and/or hardship.”

The CBP adds, “This interim contract will ensure new agents and officers have properly fitted uniforms and therefore can assume their assigned mission-critical work without weakening our national security.”

VF Imagewear also recently secured a $50-million uniform contract with the TSA, which will be manufactured in the United States and Mexico.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has said manufacturing government uniforms in Mexico poses a threat to national security.

“There are also national security concerns,” Speier said in a press release in 2011, regarding a prior contract between the TSA and VF Imagewear.  “Uniforms have a greater potential of being stolen in Mexico where it is more difficult to provide oversight of factories and cargo.”

The company does have concerns with its manufacturing sites abroad, according to its annual report, including “political or military conflict” and “heightened terrorism security concerns,” which “could subject imported or exported goods to additional, more frequent or more lengthy inspections, leading to delays in deliveries or the impoundment of goods for extended periods.”

VF Imagewear declined to comment about its dealings with CBP and the manufacture of items in Mexico, saying “VF does not discuss the specifics of its agreements.”