The New York Times has this story today about an ongoing effort to attract more black recruits to the U.S. Border Patrol from some unlikely parts of the country.
The story looks at the efforts of the agency’s Minority Recruitment Strike Team, which travels around the country spreading word of the agency’s work and, in some cases, telling potential recruits what the Border Patrol does.
The story looks at the remarkably small number of black Border Patrol agents, pegged in the piece at just 1 percent of the agency’s workforce, compared to an average of 11 percent in the civilian workforce. It also makes the point that relatively few blacks live in the border communities of the Southwest.
Latinos, on the other hand, make up 52 percent of agents, according to the story.
Here’s a snippet:
Nearly 1,500 miles from his post at the Mexican border, Cyril V. Atherton, a Border Patrol agent, embarked on one of his trickiest missions.
He was here recruiting young blacks to an agency few had ever heard of, trying to entice them to the hot, arid Southwest, where few blacks live, for a job that requires learning Spanish proficient enough to know if their lives are in danger while arresting as many as 100 people at a time.
“I’m just thinking about the snakes,” said Cassandra Holland, crinkling her nose after watching a promotional video filled with agents in adventurous exploits in the desert.
It was a measure of Mr. Atherton’s persuasion — “I can’t say you won’t see one, but you don’t have to hunt them out,” he said — that Ms. Holland filled out an application, joining several hundred others who have applied since the recruitment drive by the agency’s Minority Recruitment Strike Team began in January.
In addition to looking at the specific race angle, the piece also takes a look at the broader issue of recruitment within the Border Patrol. The Bush administration made a goal of increasing overall staffing at the agency to 18,000 employees, double the number of agents the agency had in 2001:
To meet its target, and meet it quickly, the agency has tried endeavors like sponsoring a Nascar race car and entering a promotional alliance that makes it “the official federal law enforcement officers of the Professional Bull Riders.” The Border Patrol swarmed states with recruiters at events like the “Sunshine Blitz” last weekend in Florida, emphasizing its role in preventing terrorists from crossing and playing down the tedium and more routine arrests of thousands of illegal immigrants.
The Border Patrol union, as well as some members of Congress, have raised concerns about how well recruits are being screened — one was recently ejected from the training academy after being arrested in a gun smuggling case — and how well the new agents are being supervised.
T. J. Bonner, the head of the union, called the minority recruitment team and other tactics gimmicks that mask the problems with growth. He said that by the end of the year nearly half of the agents in the Border Patrol would have less than two years’ time on the job, and that many of those with fewer than five years on the force were leaving for other law enforcement jobs.
“It’s one thing to get to 18,000,” Mr. Bonner said. “It’s another to sustain it with quality people.”