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PHOENIX -- A continued government shutdown could start a chain reaction of border agents leaving for other work.

Shawn Moran, vice president of with the National Border Patrol Council, which represents 17,000 agents and support staff, said many agents are struggling without a paycheck.

The federal government has been operating on a partial shutdown for two weeks. Border agents are still on the job, as are TSA employees.

He said the border patrol has never been aggressive about retention, and other law enforcement agencies capitalize on that.

"The Border Patrol has never been good about holding on to its people. Other agencies come in and recruit the agents because they're know for getting the job done. At some point you can only take so much and people go on and look for greener pastures.

"Our newer agents live paycheck to paycheck and can't afford a disruption like this. A lot of the agents are former military with families looking to start a career and shutdown without pay) doesn't make it any easier."

Moran said agents are also concerned whether their families will receive benefits if they're killed in the line of duty.

"I know Congress had to take action to help the military out. We're here fighting at home and if one of our agents dies in the line of duty we want to make sure the family is still taken care of. That is in the back of a lot of agents' minds and just one more thing to worry about with this job," Moran said.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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