A federal agency is looking for a few good men and women, and it's not the Marines. The U.S. Border Patrol is having trouble maintaining its ranks, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report says the Border Patrol hires an average of 523 new agents a year, while losing more than 900 on average. As of May 2017, the agency had 19,500 agents, nearly 2,000 fewer than the minimum number required by federal law. That means the agency has a lot of work to do just to fill out its ranks before it can answer President Trump's call for hiring 5,000 additional agents.
There are many reasons for the difficulty in hiring and keeping reliable border agents, starting with the polygraph test required of all applicants. "They're often looking for reasons to fail these people," says Chris Cabrera with the National Border Patrol Council. "I don't know what the end result is, but there are a lot of qualified people who get pushed by the wayside and ultimately get picked up by other agencies and go on to successful careers." Cabrera tells KTRH the tests are often unreliable and end up disqualifying good candidates. "I have no problem with people being selective, but it should be truthful," he says.
The other big issues that hurt Border Patrol staffing are pay and overall working conditions. "We don't have pay parity with other federal agencies, and then you look at location---there are a lot of places along the Southwest border that people don't want to move to because they don't want to work there," says Cabrera. "There's a lot of good folks that are leaving---to ICE, to the Secret Service, you name it, they're going---and we can't afford that, we've got to retain our agents."