Tags: Border | Patrol | Hiring | Surge | Raises | Concerns

Border Patrol Hiring Surge Raises Concerns

Tuesday, 26 June 2007 12:00 AM

TUCSON, Arizona -- A drive to recruit thousands more Border Patrol agents may flood the service with inexperienced officers and lead to increased corruption, officials said on Monday.

The U.S. government is seeking to increase the size of the Border Patrol by almost half, for a total of 18,000 agents, as part of an immigration overhaul President George W. Bush announced last year seeking to combine tougher enforcement with concessions for 12 million undocumented immigrants.

A Government Accountability Office report released last week concluded that the drive to add 6,000 agents to the force in a little over two years -- a mainstay of the White House's efforts to tighten border security -- could dilute their training and supervision.

"Our concern is that as you ramp up, the supervisory staff is just not there ... and this creates a vulnerability," Richard Stana, director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues in the GAO, said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Legislation pending in the Senate and favored by Bush would add a further 9,600 agents by 2012.

The GAO analysis says the hiring push, with plans to transfer 1,000 experienced agents to the Canadian border, will lead to a situation where "rookies train rookies."

"When you take one thousand supervisors out of an already stretched supervisory core, that's going to exacerbate things," Stana said.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has noted 40 cases of corruption since 2004, most involving agents and guards bribed by Mexican drug and human traffickers.

A Tucson court last week jailed a Border Patrol agent for seven-and-a-half years for stealing marijuana from a vehicle pulled over by a state trooper. Two agents from California were recent jailed for aiding a Mexican people trafficking ring.

A Border Patrol spokesman said sectors in the southwest may initially see a wider supervisor-to-agent ratio after the recruitment, but maintained that the agency's hiring and review process had not been "denigrated."

"The background investigation is just as intense as it was five years ago," Border Patrol agent Xavier Rios said by telephone from Washington.

But some within the Border Patrol warned that the review procedures already fall short.

"When you try to cut too many corners, something gives, and that something is generally the hiring standards or the background checks," T.J. Bonner, the president of the union representing the 11,000 field agents, said by telephone.

"You're better off having fewer well-screened, well-trained people than going out and willy-nilly hiring a large number of people. You will pay a price for that," he said.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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TUCSON, Arizona -- A drive to recruit thousands more Border Patrol agents may flood the service with inexperienced officers and lead to increased corruption, officials said on Monday. The U.S. government is seeking to increase the size of the Border Patrol by almost...
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2007-00-26
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 12:00 AM
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