Nearly 500 Border Patrol Academy students on a remote New Mexico campus are agents-in-training undergoing a rigorous, 19-week course, USA Today reports. The number of Border Patrol agents has been growing since Sept. 11, 2001. A new academic building with nine 50-seat classrooms has just been completed; a $14 million, 50,000-square-foot addition to the gym is under construction; and new dorms are on the way. After three years of steady growth, the Border Patrol is about to embark on an unprecedented expansion. If Congress approves President Bush’s request for 6,000 new agents over the next 2 1/2 years, the patrol will have 18,000 agents on the nation’s 5,000 miles of border with Mexico and Canada. That would double the number of agents since 9/11.
About 40 people apply for every one accepted at the academy. Some in Congress are skeptical that the Homeland Security Department can move fast enough to get so many agents hired. “The track record of this department in this area is not stellar,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) Bush’s plan would fundamentally change the Border Patrol and make it the largest federal law enforcement agency, surpassing the FBI.