Border Patrol launches national hiring campaign

Most of the new agents will be deployed to beef up agency’s presence along the southern border.

The Border Patrol launched a national recruiting campaign Friday, with plans to hire up to 2,100 new agents in the next 15 months.

Most of the agents will be deployed to the nation's southern border, where the bulk of illegal immigration and drug smuggling occurs, Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar told Government Executive.

"The activity levels that abound on the southern border is where we feel ... a trainee agent will get the best experience to fully round him or her out so that, as they progress within their career, they get an opportunity to go to the northern border [and] the coastal sectors that we operate," Aguilar said.

The hiring surge is being made possible by new funding from Congress. Lawmakers in recent months have expressed increasing concern about illegal immigration and border security. In May, Congress approved funding to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents as part of the fiscal 2005 emergency war supplemental for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Bush asked for 210 new Border Patrol agents in the Homeland Security Department's fiscal 2006 budget request. Congress, however, immediately moved to boost that number. The House version of the 2006 DHS appropriations bill--approved last month--includes funding to hire 1,000. The Senate version of the bill has not yet been approved, but is likely to include the funding for 1,000 new agents.

If the measure passes in its current form, the Border Patrol would hire about 2,100 new agents by the end of fiscal 2006, which would include additional hiring to account for attrition.

"The most important thing we're doing right now is preparing ourselves as the Border Patrol ... in getting ready for whatever that number is going to be," Aguilar said.

He said decisions on where to deploy agents will be based on vulnerabilities, threats and risks. But he tempered expectations of what can be achieved with the new agents in the near future.

"The growth process and the maturation process won't be over a period of one year. That's an impossibility, because once you hire the officers we have to train them, and then once the officers are trained there's a maturation process," he said. "Part of the solution for border security that we're looking for encompasses not only personnel but also infrastructure and technology."

"It's going to be a multiyear effort," Aguilar said.

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