President Donald Trump has called for a massive buildup of the country’s border protection agencies, but according to the Guardian, the border patrol is having trouble meeting its current staffing needs, let alone hiring and training the vastly expanded force called for by Trump.
At a national border security expo in San Antonio, TX this week, Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello said that his agency is losing employees faster than he can replace them.
“If you know people who are enthusiastic about border security please send them to Customs and Border Protection (CBP),” Vitiello said. “We’re already behind. We’re not hiring fast enough to keep up with the attrition.”
The Border Patrol’s head of strategic planning and analysis, Benjamin Huffman, joked to an audience at one expo event that everyone present should submit the names of five potential recruits before leaving.
Pres. Trump has ordered the agency to hire an additional 5,000 officers. The current force stands at 19,000 agents, which is 2,000 shy of goals set by the Obama administration.
The Border Patrol’s hiring process is stringent and requires polygraph tests and extensive background checks. Then, once on board with the agency, personnel often live in rugged, isolated terrain, leading the agency to shed around 1,000 agents every year as personnel seek other work.
“Some people just don’t want to live there,” said Randolph “Tex” Alles — acting deputy commissioner of CBP, a 60,000-strong agency that includes Border Patrol — to the Guardian. “Hiring challenges are not new. Attracting and recruiting high quality individuals is a challenge for us.”
Former Border Patrol officials have questioned the logic of adding 5,000 new officers to the force. Hiring and placement will be expensive and it’s not clear that additional personnel will actually do any good.
Adding to the agency’s worries is a planned addition of 10,000 agents to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which Border Patrol believes has the potential to decimate its ranks.
“There’s a real concern that a lot of that will come from Border Patrol,” said Huffman to the Guardian.
ICE agents have the advantage of living in more populous areas and they don’t have to pass a polygraph test, which around 2/3 of Border Patrol applicants fail, according to the AP.
Nonetheless, morale is reportedly high at Border Patrol. The Trump administration’s focus on immigration and border issues has energized the agency and given it a sense of mission.
“If you know people who are enthusiastic about border security please send them to CBP,” Vitiello said to an audience in Texas. “It’s awesome.”