By  on December 2, 2005

WASHINGTON — Rep. Robin Hayes (R., N.C.), reacting to a report that revealed U.S. Border Patrol uniforms are being made in Mexico, vowed to reintroduce legislation that would require the agency to purchase apparel deemed "sensitive to national security" from domestic manufacturers.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that some shirts and pants worn by agents and inspectors are being made in Mexico. The uniforms are supplied by Nashville-based VF Solutions, a subdivision of VF Corp., which subcontracts its work to plants in the U.S. and Mexico, the Associated Press disclosed.

In a statement VF said, "VF Solutions is proud to serve and outfit our U.S. Border Patrol. VF is in full compliance with all aspects of our contractual agreement with U.S. Customs & Border Protection to provide uniforms for its agents and officers. As a policy, VF does not comment on the business practices of any of its customers."

Customs & Border Patrol issued a statement maintaining it has strict security procedures in place in the U.S. and Mexico, which include audits and unannounced spot checks at facilities where it contracts business.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Hayes said, "I believe we need to take the necessary steps to ensure the federal government is producing sensitive goods, such as U.S. Border Patrol uniforms, in the United States to help alleviate this security risk," referring to concerns over the uniforms made in Mexico falling into the wrong hands.

Hayes asked Chertoff to identify other uniforms that are made outside of the U.S. and said he would be introducing legislation soon to address the issue. The congressman has been a staunch supporter of the Berry amendment, which requires the Department of Defense to give preference to domestically produced and manufactured products.

Under that amendment, the so-called "Buy American" rules are strict when it comes to procuring apparel and textiles for uniforms. Hayes said his legislation would require applying the Berry amendment guidelines to Homeland Security procurement.

The amendment provides a significant amount of business for the beleaguered U.S. apparel and textile industry.

"It is becoming an increasingly important component of the business," said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. "We strongly support Congressman Hayes' effort to get some accountability on this issue. All national security agencies should have strong 'Buy American' requirements."

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