The U.S. Border Patrol has spent $1 million to advertise on a NASCAR racer, part of the biggest recruitment campaign in the agency’s history, says the Houston Chronicle. Many onder if it can hire 6,000 agents by fiscal 2009. Agency officials insist they’re ”on track” to make the hires, a 48 percent increase in the force since 2006. It’s a key component of the Bush administration’s renewed efforts to broker a pending immigration-reform law by ramping up security at the border.
Former agents, community activists, and immigration experts doubt the recruiting effort will succeed. They say thousands of new agents cannot be hired, trained and thoroughly background-checked in that time frame. On the job, critics say, the quality of the recruits is jeopardized by gaps in field training and insufficient numbers of experienced personnel to supervise hordes of new agents. Agent T.J. Bonner, president of a national union representing agents, testified last week before a Homeland Security subcommitee in Washington, D.C., that the recruitment drive was proceeding too quickly. ”Any time you engage in trying to put too many people on board too quickly, you’re going to experience increased corruption and increased attrition. There’s no way around it,” Bonner told the Chronicle. ”The Border Patrol simply does not have the resources to properly train, or oversee, such a large influx of agents.” Te Border Patrol has an attrition rate of 11 or 12 percent a year, meaning the agency must actually hire about 9,000 new agents to reach a goal of 18,000 agents by fiscal 2009. In May, there were 13,475 agents on the job.