An auxiliary force could help the Border Patrol overcome manpower issues, according to a report Monday from the Center for Immigration Studies.
The Border Patrol is at its lowest staffing levels in seven years and President Trump ordered the hiring of 5,000 additional officers in a January executive order. Hiring these agents will cost billions of dollars and many years to achieve. (RELATED: Feds Seek Outside Contractor To Help With Hiring Of Deportation Force)
The Center for Immigration Studies report suggests that to overcome the difficulty in hiring these agents, the Border Patrol could augment its operations with an auxiliary force. Current examples of auxiliary forces at the federal level include the Civil Air Patrol and the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Of the current 19,828 Border Patrol agents, 17,026 are earmarked to work on the southwest border. However, Victor Manjarrez, Jr., a former sector chief in Tucson and El Paso, told CIS that many of these agents are busy with other duties. “Agents can be found in the garage repairing vehicles, welding and repairing the border fence, etc. — the non-duty stuff takes about 18 percent of the manpower,” Manjarrez said.
Manjarrez continued on to say: “I believe the idea of an auxiliary unit would be very helpful in the right situations and the right training. The idea has come up several times before and I’m glad to hear that someone is thinking about it again.”
The former commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Robert Bonner told the Associated Press in 2005 that the agency considered using volunteers. “We value having eyes and ears of citizens, and I think that would be one of the things we are looking at is how you better organize, let’s say, a citizen effort,” Bonner said.
At the time, the Border Patrol union opposed the idea as they were worried it would be akin to a citizen militia. The CIS report, however, stressed that an auxiliary force would essentially replace these militias and the volunteers would not carry firearms. “Among the duties auxiliary personnel can perform are transportation, booking and processing, hospital watch, electronic video and movement sensor monitoring, dispatch, and vehicle and fence maintenance, all of which currently take agents off the line,” CIS fellow Joseph Kolb wrote.
Kolb added that these volunteers could also serve as an “an extra set of eyes and ears” and be stationed with an agent in a patrol vehicle. Glenn Kearney, executive president for the New York State Association of Auxiliary Police, told CIS that extensive training would be required for these volunteers to be effective.”We don’t want the officers to babysit our auxiliary officers,” Kearney said. “When it comes to trust, if you can trust a trained officer, you can trust a trained volunteer.”
The Civil Air Patrol, which serves as an auxiliary for the Air Force, has previously shown effectiveness in border operations. It flew 12,000 hours in 2005 assisting multiple agencies, including the Border Patrol, in fighting the War on Drugs and its efforts led to the seizure of drugs worth over $400 million.