Agent shortage

Despite incentives, U.S. Border Patrol struggles to hire women

A woman U.S. Border Patrol agent. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Last year, the male-dominated U.S. Border Patrol pledged to hire up to 1,600 women after receiving a rare dispensation from the government to target only women. The deadline for the effort was last week and the result was paltry: a net hiring of only 50 women. Only five percent of the 21,000 Border Patrol agents are women, the lowest rate among federal law enforcement agencies, and it faced daunting workloads. Tens of thousands of parents and children crossed the Southwest border last year alone. Many of the female immigrants who cross the U.S. border have been sexually assaulted on their journeys and they prefer being searched by women. Another advantage to having more female agents is that women and are more likely to share information about smugglers and other offenders with them. The agency, which is also hiring men in order to meet a Congressionally-mandated surge in agents, believes that the failure to add women is mostly a result of the nature of the work. The job is solitary, outdoors, potentially dangerous, requires fluency in Spanish, and often stations agents in remote areas lacking good schools and day care. High tensions between law enforcement and minority communities may also be a factor. For now, the Border Patrol hopes to try another incentive: the agency is currently seeking an increase in its budget for signing bonuses for women.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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