A goal the Bush administration will meet is hiring 6,000 new agents to boost the force to 18,000. While there were about 6,400 Hispanic agents in 2006, there were 9,300 in November 2008. Hispanics now comprise 52 percent of the agents.
Because southwest border communities are largely Latino, recruits there have an advantage in the required Spanish fluency as well as familiarity with the job. Applicants who can pass a Spanish proficiency test can skip 40 days of required language instruction at the academy.
”We have a large Hispanic population on the southwest border, and they are familiar with the Border Patrol, so the opportunity is more appealing if they’re closer to home,’ said Joe Abbott, director of recruitment for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
There are concerns about thousands of new agents enforcing laws in the same communities where they have strong family ties, some that extend across the border. ”The problem is with people who are born and raised there, and have associates on both sides of the border. I don’t think that’s especially good from an integrity standpoint,’ said James Dorcy, a director of the National Association of Retired Border Patrol Officers.
His organization and the National Border Patrol Council worry that the rapid buildup of the Border Patrol, along with an outsourcing of background investigations of applicants to private contractors, has allowed unsuitable candidates to become federal agents.