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  • BP Struggles to Double Staffing Over Eight Years

    Border Patrol struggles to keep newly hired agents

    By Elliot Spagat
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    1:35 p.m. August 27, 2008
    IMPERIAL BEACH – Law enforcement officers wanted: must work graveyard shifts alone in remote towns along the Mexican border, put in long hours and perform well in triple-digit temperatures.

    That message is never touted in U.S. Border Patrol recruitment brochures, but the sobering reality of working on the border has created an environment in which about 30 percent of agents leave their jobs in less than 18 months.

    “This has complications up and down the line,” said Richard Stana, director of homeland security issues at the Government Accountability Office. “You're constantly in a recruiting mode ... If this population keeps churning, you're constantly training.”

    The Border Patrol's struggle to keep new hires has become more evident as the agency comes close to meeting President Bush's target of 18,000 agents by the end of the year, up from 12,000 two years ago and double the number from eight years ago. The hiring surge means 42 percent of agents have less than three years on the job.

    The GAO estimates that taxpayers pay $14,700 for each trainee at the Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, N.M. That 2006 figure doesn't take into account the many additional hours that senior agents spend training hires during a two-year probationary period.

    Money aside, a revolving door means a large percentage of the force will always be inexperienced.

    “You've got to fill the slots, but you want quality people who are not going to leave,” said Jeremy Wilson, associate director of RAND Corp.'s Center for Quality Policing. “You don't want to spend time and resources on someone if they're just going to up and leave.”

    About 20 percent of Border Patrol employees fail to graduate from the academy, which lasts up to 95 days for trainees who need to learn Spanish. More leave after returning to their stations.

    The attrition rate for entry-level agents – generally those who have been on the job for 18 months or less – is 29.6 percent since October, up from 23.7 percent during the previous 12-month period and 22.7 percent the year before, the agency said.

    Senior agents tend to stay put, but the growing number of newcomers has raised the Border Patrol's overall attrition rate to 10.9 percent since October from 9.6 percent during the previous 12-month period and 6.7 percent the year before.

    Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California said the attrition rate signals a need to slow hiring.

    “The solution is to give the (Border Patrol) chief a bit of breathing space to find the right recruits,” she said.

    Border Patrol officials said they are not bothered. They insist the agency's growth has made it easier to get promoted and more likely that new hires will get to pick where they want to work along the Mexican border.

    “In any job or any career, the first year or two you're learning whether it's for you,” Assistant Chief Michael Olsen said.

    The Border Patrol warns recruits that their first assignments are often in small, isolated towns, some with poor schools and medical care. The heat can be stifling in places like Calexico, Calif., where the average daily high temperature is 104 degrees in July.

    Some recruits get homesick. New hires must work on the Mexican border. After two years, they can seek transfers to the Canadian border or to Washington, D.C., but competition for those jobs can be fierce.

    “If you're from Kansas, you're not going home,” said Quinn Palmer, a Border Patrol spokesman in El Centro, Calif.

    Mike Fisher, the Border Patrol's San Diego sector chief, had never been west of Cleveland when he got his first assignment in Douglas, Ariz. He was warned about the heat and the long drive to Phoenix, but no words could have prepared him.

    “It's a huge culture shock,” he said.

    The high cost of living is a drawback in San Diego. A Border Patrol agent starts at $36,658 a year, though overtime can improve pay up to 25 percent. After three years, pay can climb to about $70,000 a year, including overtime.

    Boredom is another job hazard. Agents in Imperial Beach wait alone in parked Jeeps and pickups, waiting for migrants to jump the border fence and make a run for the nearest patch of stores and homes.

    Darin Bowdin of Sacramento, who joined the station in October 2006, wants to be promoted to a special unit – like all-terrain vehicles, horseback, boat patrol or SWAT-style teams – but those jobs are off-limits until he finishes two years.

    For now, the 27-year-old says: “I've just got to sit my time on the line watching the fence.”

    Kate Griffith applied at the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration but lacked experience, so she joined the Border Patrol in January 2007 after hearing a radio ad.

    “I thought it would be an opportunity to get in federal law enforcement,” said Griffith, who likes her job but would eventually consider returning home to York, Pa.

    Recruiters are going to extraordinary lengths to find applicants. New television ads show agents jumping out of a helicopter, climbing over boulders and sitting on galloping horses.

    In September alone, the agency will hold job fairs from Honolulu to Charleston, S.C. It is sponsoring NASCAR and professional bull riding contests. Specialized teams focus on hiring women and African-Americans.

    The Imperial Beach station has grown to 400 agents from 300 since October, with more than 40 percent having less than 2½ years at the agency. Of the 100 newest hires, 20 have left, most before finishing training.

    Some are unprepared even after graduating from the academy, said Erich Haas, who trains new hires, known as interns.

    “When they return from the academy, the first thing I tell them is that it's going to be tough, lots of long hours,” Haas said. “I've seen some interns realize after the first couple days that this is a different animal.”
    Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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  • #2
    Considering how some of their agents have been thrown to the federal prosecutorial wolves, I can understand why they have more trouble recuiting these days. I know one local LEO who wants to switch the the BP, but he's banking on his connections getting him an assignment to Puerto Rico instead of the Mexican border. I wish him luck with that, but I'm not holding my breath. These guys need to know they have the full backing of their government and don't risk prosecution for simply doing their jobs.

    Comment


    • #3
      Feds is not where it is at. Sure someone has to do it, but not me!

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by velobard View Post
        Considering how some of their agents have been thrown to the federal prosecutorial wolves, I can understand why they have more trouble recuiting these days. These guys need to know they have the full backing of their government and don't risk prosecution for simply doing their jobs.
        Yeah, I also noticed that the article failed to mention anything about that. More media misinformation by simple excluding facts.
        Of course, they had to put a plug in for Loreta Sanchez, the woman who changed her name to get votes.
        The liberal politician has the only job where they go to the office to work for everyone but those who pay their salary.

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        • #5
          but he's banking on his connections getting him an assignment to Puerto Rico instead of the Mexican border

          Not possible, every new hire must complete his probation along the US/Mexican border.
          Gov Blagojevich - "I'am the American dream...."

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          • #6

            Perhaps I may be succumbing to contrarian thinking, but maybe they would not have so many agents "burning out" if our federal government actually cared about protecting our nation's borders.

            If we got rid of the 'freebies' for illegals and their children (food stamps, health care, schools, etc.) and unscrupulous employers were no longer willing to hire them (if they actually feared imprisonment or large fines), then perhaps many of the illegals might deport themselves.

            It is easy to blame the Mexicans (and others) for trying to get here illegally, but they would not come if there were no jobs or government services available to them. We took a long time to get into this imbroglio, and it will take a long time to get out of it (if that is even possible). Hiring more agents is probably necessary, but is really only a stopgap measure that will make little difference in the grand scheme of things.


            Last edited by VA Dutch; 08-28-2008, 09:01 AM.

            The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

            The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

            ------------------------------------------------

            "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

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            • #7
              Originally posted by StephDakel View Post
              but he's banking on his connections getting him an assignment to Puerto Rico instead of the Mexican border

              Not possible, every new hire must complete his probation along the US/Mexican border.
              On top of that the Puerto Rico detachment is pretty small. From what I have seen it appears to be all land based as well, I think they may have a boat or two though.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ChrisF202 View Post
                On top of that the Puerto Rico detachment is pretty small. From what I have seen it appears to be all land based as well, I think they may have a boat or two though.
                FWIW, I agree. I think it's wishful thinking.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by VA Dutch View Post

                  Perhaps I may be succumbing to contrarian thinking, but maybe they would not have so many agents "burning out" if our federal government actually cared about protecting our nation's borders.

                  If we got rid of the 'freebies' for illegals and their children (food stamps, health care, schools, etc.) and unscrupulous employers were no longer willing to hire them (if they actually feared imprisonment or large fines), then perhaps many of the illegals might deport themselves.

                  It is easy to blame the Mexicans (and others) for trying to get here illegally, but they would not come if there were no jobs or government services available to them. We took a long time to get into this imbroglio, and it will take a long time to get out of it (if that is even possible). Hiring more agents is probably necessary, but is really only a stopgap measure that will make little difference in the grand scheme of things.


                  Only problem is, if we get all the Mexicans out and the companies that hire illegals HERE and the illegals who live HERE they will move their companies to damn China.. I'm not advocating illegals stay here but.. this is getting me confused.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Taylor13 View Post
                    Only problem is, if we get all the Mexicans out and the companies that hire illegals HERE and the illegals who live HERE they will move their companies to damn China.. I'm not advocating illegals stay here but.. this is getting me confused.
                    In that event, I'm sure that there's some tax incentives that can be taken away and maybe even tax penalties that can be imposed...

                    Besides, you can't necessarily move a meat packing plant to China or especially India.
                    "First of all, then we have to say the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama." - Al Sharpton, March 21, 2010

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Taylor13 View Post
                      Only problem is, if we get all the Mexicans out and the companies that hire illegals HERE and the illegals who live HERE they will move their companies to damn China.. I'm not advocating illegals stay here but.. this is getting me confused.
                      That's already happened.

                      About 10 to 15 years ago, the maquilladora (sp?) project started. US companies were invited to build factories in border cities in Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor, and to encourage folks to stay in their home country. Most of those companies have since been lured to the even cheaper labor of China's factories.

                      Illegals in the US send billions of dollars to their home countries. For many of those countries, it is their #1 source of income.

                      If we put a limit on the amount of money that can be sent out of the country, like every other nation does, that might change.
                      Last edited by willowdared; 08-29-2008, 11:08 AM.
                      Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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                      • #12
                        They wouldnt even need to increase their staffing if the agents that were already there were allowed to actually do their job. Some of our officers used to be BP...... I know its a little better now, but back then they actually were reprimanded for apprehending illegals because it made the stats look bad and it looked like a lot of illegals were making it across the border. Just like now when the activists protest border patrol making arrests because it makes the illegal community scared to come out because they might be arrested...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by willowdared View Post
                          That's already happened.

                          About 10 to 15 years ago, the maquilladora (sp?) project started. US companies were invited to build factories in border cities in Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor, and to encourage folks to stay in their home country. Most of those companies have since been lured to the even cheaper labor of China's factories.
                          I also believe that the crime problem is a MAJOR factor for any companies now considering a maquiladora plant.

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                          • #14
                            Border Patrol is not a bad job. There are some growing pains right now, but that can be expected in an agency that is trying to pretty much double their manpower in a short period of time. That 30% attrition rate statistic is kind of skewed, because it includes people that fail or quit the academy and those who don't make it through FTO. I am sure other agencies would have similar or higher attrition rates if academy/FTO failures were included in the statistics.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by velobard View Post
                              I also believe that the crime problem is a MAJOR factor for any companies now considering a maquiladora plant.
                              Nah, they collapsed at least 5 years ago. There was one significant kidnapping of a Sony Exec, but companies were already shifting to China by then.

                              It's probably one reason the smuggling has exploded, all the folks that came up north to work in the maquiladoras needed new work opportunities.
                              Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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