- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2007

The U.S. Border Patrol, seeking to recruit 6,000 new agents by the end of 2008, has emblazoned its name on a NASCAR Busch Series car in an attempt to rev up its ambitious hiring plan.

The agency is teaming with Jay Robinson Racing for a 25-race sponsorship of the No. 28 Chevrolet that will run through the remainder of the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series season. The green-and-white Border Patrol vehicle made its debut May 11 at the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina during the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 — won by Denny Hamlin in a Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet. The Border Patrol-sponsored car finished 25th out of 43.

The NASCAR vehicle represents “what CBP Border Patrol is attempting to do with its hiring and recruiting efforts; it is fast, diligent and precise,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham said. “This partnership is exactly what we needed to rev our recruiting and hiring into high gear.”

The deal cost the agency $975,000, spokesman Bill Anthony said, adding that CBP is competing with NASCAR vehicles sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines Corps in what has proven to be a successful recruiting tool.

“We’re trying to recruit a large number of agents without sacrificing quality, and NASCAR Busch Series vehicles are a proven technology on how to get that job done,” Mr. Anthony said.

“The U.S. Border Patrol provides great job opportunities to people here in the United States and a great service to this country,” Robinson Racing Team owner Jay Robinson said. “We believe this partnership will be a tremendous success for the U.S. Border Patrol’s campaign for hiring agents and lead to great things on the track as well.”

CBP last year began the recruitment drive to hire 6,000 more Border Patrol agents — a 50 percent manpower increase — as part of President Bush’s plan to better secure the nation’s borders. The recruitment, hiring and training of the new agents has become one of Mr. Basham’s top priorities.

Mr. Basham said a secure border in the post-September 11 world is not only an issue of national sovereignty and economic prosperity, but also one of national security. He said CBP’s job of protecting America’s borders has always been important, but “never more important or more difficult than it is today.”

In May 2006, Mr. Bush ordered 6,000 National Guard troops at a cost of $1.9 million to help the Border Patrol secure the Southwest border. The troops operate surveillance systems, analyze intelligence, install fences and vehicle barriers, build roads and provide training.

As the new Border Patrol agents and congressionally mandated technologies come on line, the National Guard forces will be reduced.

As part of the NASCAR package, Border Patrol recruiters will be at the races to answer questions about the qualifications and requirements for the position — seeking candidates who can successfully undergo a rigorous screening process, which includes a written examination, structured interview, foreign-language proficiency or language-aptitude test, medical examination and drug test, a physical-fitness test, as well as a background investigation.

Initial salaries start at about $35,000 with non-competitive promotion potential greater than $55,000 after two years. The recruits also receive a benefits package including medical, dental, vision and retirement benefits, in addition to substantial overtime earnings.

Initial assignments for Border Patrol agents will be along the Southwest borders of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

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