- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

TUCSON, Ariz. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection has begun a recruitment drive to hire 6,000 more Border Patrol agents as part of President Bush’s plan to better secure the nation’s borders.

The unprecedented recruitment effort, coordinated by Border Patrol Deputy Chief Luis Barker, is aimed at recruiting, training and deploying the new agents during the next two years.

In the meantime, Mr. Bush has ordered that 6,000 National Guard troops be deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of Operation Jump Start to free up the existing Border Patrol force for expanded patrol duties along the 1,951-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

About half that total has been assigned and more have been committed to the effort.

National Guard troops are building additional roads and fences, adding cameras and sensors, conducting aerial reconnaissance and providing medical aid and communications support.

Last week, Border Patrol spokesman Mike Friel said that since the arrival of the troops, about 1,250 illegal aliens had been detained as part of Mr. Bush’s $770 million program to help secure the southern border.

The National Guard troops also will perform administrative duties, gather intelligence from border cameras, assist at highway checkpoints and serve on entry-identification teams.

In addition, Mr. Friel said, National Guard troops have helped the Border Patrol seize nearly 12,400 pounds of marijuana and 190 pounds of cocaine.

He said more than 180 Border Patrol agents have returned to direct border-security duties as National Guard troops relieve agents of responsibilities outside law enforcement.

“It will take a lot of dedication, perseverance and innovation,” Chief Barker said of the recruitment effort. “We are committed to successfully meeting this challenge.”

A task force of 50 recruiters has been assigned to the effort, which will include what Border Patrol officials said would be a rigorous screening process.

Agents candidates also will be tested for foreign language proficiency and undergo a medical examination, drug testing, a physical fitness test, as well as a national security background investigation.

Candidates must complete a 19-week basic training academy in Artesia, N.M., as part of a two-year internship program. The starting salary range is $34,996 to $39,797 with other benefits and substantial overtime earnings.

Chief Barker said recruiters will focus an advertising campaign in large metropolitan areas with military transition centers across the country, identifying candidates who have completed their military obligations and want to continue in public service protecting the nation’s borders.

He said advertising will be placed on the Internet, television and radio, and in movie theaters and transit locations.

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