Image via AP

In late February, less than a month after President Donald Trump took office, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new immigration enforcement orders that included telling Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to immediately hire 5,000 new agents. The CBP also was ordered to hire 500 Air and Marine agents.

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The problem is that CBP already is facing a shortage of agents willing to do the job.

The Guardian reports that Border Patrol chief Ronald Vitiello and other senior officials discussed the shortage of agents at a border security trade fair in San Antonio, TX, essentially begging attendees to sign up.

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According to the newspaper:

“If you know people who are enthusiastic about border security please send them to Customs and Border Protection (CBP),” Ronald Vitiello, the Border Patrol chief, said in an appeal this week. “We’re already behind. We’re not hiring fast enough to keep up with the attrition.”


The CBP currently has 19,000 agents, which is 2,000 agents short of a target set by the administration of President Barack Obama. That’s the first time the number of agents has dipped below 20,000 since 2009, The Associated Press reported. Plus, about 1,000 agents quit every year.

In addition to the isolation and difficult conditions of the job, one of the reasons CBP can’t find enough agents is because getting hired requires passing a lie-detector test. According to AP, two out of three CBP applicants fail the polygraph test.

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CBP began using lie-detector tests for applications in 2012 after several agents were arrested for misconduct. While being administered lie-detector tests after that, some applicants admitted being sent by drug cartels.

CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske told AP that lie-detector failure rates are high because the agency isn’t attracting the kind of people it wants. After all, being a border patrol agent takes a special kind of person. Other officials and some lawmakers counter that the testing borders on harassment.

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The DHS order eventually will have to be enforced somehow. But at this point, it’s unclear how that’s going to happen.