Here’s a new piece at WOLA’s website—a response to the Trump administration’s proposal to increase the size of Border Patrol by 5,000 agents. At 3,000 words, it’s a good 12-minute read—a long “commentary” or a short report.
The Trump administration is proposing to increase the U.S. Border Patrol’s personnel strength by 5,000 agents. Its 2018 Homeland Securitybudget request to Congress includes $100 million to hire the first 500.
Five thousand new hires would increase the agency’s size by more than a quarter. In April 2017, Border Patrol had 19,565 agents, with a funded level of 21,370. 16,717 were stationed at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Trump administration proposal would continue more than two decades of sharp growth—from 4,028 agents in 1993 to 21,444 in 2011. (We discuss the post–2011 reduction below.)
Of those 16,717 agents, 4,704 “were assigned to leadership or administration duties” at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General reported in July, leaving “about 12,013… assigned to directly engage in conducting apprehensions and arrests on the Southwest Border.” It went on, “Border Patrol officials estimated 2,000 Border Patrol Agents are actually performing intelligence work,” which would reduce the number of patrolling agents at the border still further. The Inspector General’s conclusion: “The use of Border Patrol Agents performing duties not directly tied to ‘ensuring complete operational control of the border’ calls into question the Department’s operational need for 5,000 new agents.” There may not be a “shortage” at all.