National Security

US Customs and Border Protection Gets Bullish with Hiring Thousands of New Agents

Coincidentally, this mobilization happens at the same time Donald Trump wins the election.”

As we are currently aware, the success of President Trump’s border wall project is going to require an additional 15,000 federal agents, 5,000 of which are slated for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It is no secret that the volume of new federal cops will be difficult to amass. There has been chatter of lowering standards to help fill vacancies quickly. This doesn’t bode well for our nation’s national security.

OpsLens has already published a few pieces on lowering hiring standards in law enforcement. One article focused on former President Obama’s backwards police reform initiatives. Another article analyzed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CBP, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mulling the idea of lowering hiring requirements.

Another OpsLens article concentrated on the robust push to strengthen federal immigration enforcement. Despite any perceived or acknowledged contentions, it seems CBP recruiters have stepped out of the box and into unorthodox arenas to attract otherwise untapped candidates.

Rodeos, bull-riding events, outdoor concerts, and similar functions have become recruitment-drive venues to prospect thousands of federal police jobs necessary to fatten the feds’ role in achieving national security. I can appreciate law enforcement stepping away from the come-to-us method and going out into the field to source and curate cops. There is also a strategy to pound atypical pavement (or plod fertilizer) to see what shakes out.

In years past, one of my assignments was recruiting future police officers at local colleges and universities. Typically, the criminal justice or criminology majors were ideal candidates; it made perfect sense. So were political science and pre-law students. Surprisingly, I found a wide array of educational disciplines interested in law enforcement careers, many without any correlation to police work.

While researching HR principles in the early 2000s, I scoured the FBI website and hiring criteria regarding “Special Agent” vacancies. What I found back then was that the FBI specifically hones in on those who have accounting or finance degrees (forensic analyses and white collar investigative skills), or Juris Doctor degrees (like rolling a prosecutor and Special Agent in one). Nowadays, “all Special Agent applicants must possess a minimum of a U.S. accredited bachelor’s degree” to qualify for a career with the FBI, encompassing many different academic disciplines.

Incidentally, CBP has three tiers to qualify for a border protection officer career: experience, education, or a combination of experience and education. Therefore, a college degree is not a pre-requisite.

Recruitment at educational institutions was commonplace many years ago, well before the current climate and bizarre philosophies in many American colleges. Expanding horizons is one thing, brainwashing cells is another thing entirely. Law enforcement recruitment on college campuses is not out of the question, but is definitely not en vogue. Talk to any campus cop and you will hear a litany of anti-police stories.

CBP stepping into the rodeo ring may not be the first thing coming to mind in the context of candidate-seeking police recruiters, but it may transcend to some previously unconsidered prospects. If recruiting animal show competitors garners a fraction of what CBP is looking for, it is well-suited to border security horse patrol assignments.

The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) website describes its jurisdictional terrain to include ”farms, ranches, forests, desert, rivers, lakes, and an excellent climate.” That sounds perfect for naturalists, cattle, and equine-minded people.

As ABC15 News in Arizona recently reported, CBP is extending their recruitment reach far and wide. The station broadcast an interview it held with NBPC president Art Del Cueto who presides over Local 2544 Border Patrol Union. Del Cueto described that although CBP traditionally focuses on hiring military members with security clearances already in place, the agency has been encountering glitches whereby some veterans look great on paper but do poorly on the polygraph test, resulting in disqualification.

A Los Angeles Times article reported that about two-thirds of CBP applicants fail the polygraph examination. However, the same article reported that CBP’s sister agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), currently does not use polygraphs in its candidate-hiring process. ICE’s Careers site indicates “applicants may be required to submit to a drug test.” That doesn’t sound definitive.

Moreover, an excerpt from the LAT article stipulated that “CBP, under pressure to hire, recently loosened standards on previous marijuana use and, under a law that took effect in December, can waive polygraphs for veterans with top-secret clearances.” That last part counters Del Cueto’s statement relating to polygraphs disqualifying veterans.

But the Beat Goes On…

Federal agents’ border security efforts infrequently adorn pages of print media. TV news or online social media sites also defer to topics other than law enforcement victories. That is by choice — it’s rooted in media bias. But plenty of major incidents, including perils that follow law enforcers everywhere, are transpiring.

Review CBP’s press releases and you will read about daily apprehensions, significant contraband seizures, cross-border tunnel discoveries, women and children saved from human trafficking, and other related border security enforcement milestones. Now imagine all of those achievements exponentially. Once the 15,000 new federal agents are assigned to national border posts, the dividends increase and President Trump’s immigration enforcement initiatives come closer to fruition.

As Del Cueto’s site pointed out in November 2016,

“It is surprising that after three years of unprecedented illegal crossings in south Texas, it is only now, that the Border patrol mobilizes additional Agents to assist that sector. Coincidentally, this mobilization happens at the same time Donald Trump wins the election.”

“But when Local 2544 met with the current head of the Border Patrol, Mark Morgan, he stated he didn’t just want to throw Agents at a situation and hope it gets fixed. So why now the change of heart? Could it be that the political appointees in CBP & DHS realize that we have an Administration that is serious about border security?”

Boom, there you have it!

Regardless of hampered game plans, I trust federal recruitment efforts will not get bogged down in nonsense and will instead accomplish planned national security objectives. Whether the best police candidates are found atop bucking broncos or operating Ferris wheels at the local carnival is irrelevant.

Do you think CBP’s outreach hiring efforts border on innovation?

Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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