Donald Trump Wants to Waste a Lot of Money on New Border Patrol Agents

In the LA Times today, Christine Stenglein and John Hudak warn that enlarging the border patrol won’t be easy:

Customs and Border Protection last year awarded a $297 million contract for assistance in recruiting and hiring the 5,000 border patrol agents President Trump believes we need to combat “the recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico.”

Those bold numbers may please the Make America Great Again crowd, but it will be exceedingly difficult to find qualified agents, or to deploy them effectively since the border is actually quieter than ever. Under the Clinton administration, it took 27 applicants to yield one Border Patrol officer. And the hiring ratio has gotten worse. This spring, when Customs and Border Protection requested bids for private contractors to help fulfill Trump’s order, it wrote that it now takes 133 applicants to hire one full-time employee.

Not only is it harder than ever to find qualified agents, it’s not clear why we need them in the first place. Here’s what border apprehensions look like over the past decade:

Apprehensions went down substantially during President Obama’s first three years in office. Was this due to the Great Recession or to tougher enforcement? Some of both, I think, but the recession must not have been a huge factor since the 2008-11 decline merely continued a trend that started under the Bush administration—and apprehension numbers have stayed low ever since, even as the economy has expanded. In President Trump’s first year, apprehensions went down even further.

Here’s what this means in terms of Border Patrol staffing:

A decade ago, it took less than one-quarter of an agent to make an apprehension each month. Today it takes four times as many. And if Trump has his way, it will take five times as many.

This doesn’t make much sense. Illegal immigration is down, and it seems to be down permanently. Why do we need five times more agents per apprehension than we did in 2008? Not only is it dangerous to hire this many new agents at once, possibly at the cost of lowering standards, but it seems like a waste of money too.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate