Border Patrol struggling to hire, keep agents, but may never get 5,000 Trump ordered
March 29, 2019
Such stress might help to explain why over 100 CBP employees have committed suicide over the past 12 years, according to agency data.When U.S. Border Patrol agents called on the patrol's air unit to provide overhead coverage for operations, about four out of five requests were rejected over three recent years.
The reason? A lack of pilots.
And the staffing crisis at Border Patrol doesn't end with pilots.
Vice President Mike Pence (right) and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (second from right) watches Virtual Simulator Training during a visit to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Advanced Training Facility in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., on March 13, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP)
As President Donald Trump's attention is focused on building a border wall to keep out unwanted migrants, the Border Patrol's "human wall" is in a serious state of disrepair, according to a USA TODAY review of government documents, congressional testimony and interviews with agents.
The Border Patrol, a component of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, faces a crisis in hiring, training and retaining agents as well as keeping track of what exactly its 19,555 agents are doing at any given time, according to internal watchdog reports.
As the Border Patrol struggles to maintain current workforce levels, its greatest challenge will be President Trump's executive order from two years ago calling for the hiring of an additional 5,000 agents to seal off the southern border.
Since that Jan. 25, 2017, order, what should have been a flood of hiring has been, at best, a trickle. In 2018, the agency added 118 Border Patrol agents, with only three stationed along the southern border.
That shortfall is part of the reason Trump has deployed thousands of National Guardsmen and active-duty military troops to the southern border and has left agency officials questioning whether the 5,000-agent goal will ever be realized.
"I can't necessarily say whether we'll be able to meet it at this point," said Temea Simmons-Collins, acting executive director for the talent management directorate at Customs and Border Protection.
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