U.S.-Mexico border wall needed only in 'strategic locations,' says border patrol union head

“We don’t need a great wall of the United States," Brandon Judd said.

Judd said the current fencing "can be defeated," explaining to the senators that he has spent time finding holes in the fence.

"If we do a wall and we do it properly on the border, we can in fact effectuate a better arrest rate and we can in fact secure the border,” he said. "Before we do that we have to address the current issues that we have."

This will be a major undertaking for the agencies.

"Somebody has to arrest the people who are going to continue to attempt to enter even if there is a border wall," he said.

Judd told senators that Border Patrol loses over 1,000 agents per year. He said the biggest issue facing Border Patrol hiring is pay parity with other agencies, adding that the agency has to bring back parity, otherwise there will be a "mass exodus to ICE when ICE starts hiring."

However, he called on the Congress not to restrict Border Patrol agents from getting hired by ICE, saying that preventing mobility would cause an even greater drop in morale.

Amid concerns that people are increasingly making illegal crossings into Canada, Judd said he doesn't want to create a situation where the only focus in on the southern border.

"What I am scared of is we are going to throw all of our resources to the southern border and leave the northern border wide open," said Judd.

The union president called on Border Patrol to station "at least" 1,500 of the yet-to-be hired 5,000 agents on the northern border.

Only union representatives spoke at the hearing. There were no government witnesses to discuss hiring and morale issues.

Aside from increased pay for Border Patrol agents, Judd said that boosting morale and changing the way the polygraph is administered are his top priorities to help fix the hiring needs of the agency.

National President of the National Treasury Employees Union, Anthony Reardon, who was representing CBP field operation employees said that the CBP officer shortage is "staggering."

"There is no greater roadblock to legitimate trade and travel efficiency and stopping illicit trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons and money than the lack of sufficient staff at the ports," he said.

There is an existing vacancy rate of nearly 1,400 already-budgeted CBP officers at ports and, an additional 2,100 CBP officers need to be funded and hired in order to meet 2017 staffing needs -- a total staffing shortage of 3,500 today, according to Reardon.

Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, said ICE is suffering from a "toxic and failed management culture."

"Screw up and move up" is a term used by ICE employees to describe supervision all the way from low-level managers to the director of the agency, he said.

He said that ICE is made up of a "good ole' boy" network, in which supervisors cover for supervisors, and only rank and file employees are held accountable.

He also said that hiring standards must be maintained and in some cases elevated.

"We need the "time to do this right," he said regarding the additional agents that ICE is planning to hire.