In the decades since a bunch of xenophobic guys on horses institutionalized their mounted patrols with a federal budget and a badge, the Border Patrol has spent a lot of time and money convincing prospective agents that prowling the border and punching children is a cool job only fit for cowboys and/or the baddest of dudes.
During this latest Trump-mandated hiring spree, Customs and Border Protection has promised $10,000 cash bonuses, depicting the position as a rugged, never-ending country music video, starring you, featuring ATV rides across the desert, paid hikes, and majestic teams of horses. In its advertising deals the agency cuts right to the heart of the demographic most likely to see starving and assaulting immigrants as the natural evolution of the mythology of the American West: CPB has sponsored rodeos, Dallas Cowboys games, and NASCAR races. Naturally.
But none of these extremely on-brand efforts, or even the $297 million contract the Border Patrol signed with an outside recruitment firm last December, seem to be making a dent in its long-time struggle to hire and retain agents. One might imagine false advertising has something to do with this, considering that working at Border Patrol is often not often one long walk-about in the desert, or that working at CBP is the kind of thing that happens to people who wanted to be in the FBI when they grew up but couldn’t even get accepted by ICE. Morale at CBP is ranked near the bottom of a list maintained by nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service: At No. 315, it’s right above working at Veterans’ Affairs.
And as Mother Jones reports today, it seems that multi-million-dollar contract with the recruitment firm Accenture is mostly being used to hold prospective agents’ hands through the application process, which has already been made less rigorous as the Trump Administration demands more bodies at the border:
Specifically, CBP will remind applicants to take their entrance exam, help them schedule it, and provide them with unspecified “helpful information” about the test, which about half of applicants fail. Accenture will then help them schedule medical exams and fitness tests. CBP says applicants also need encouragement to complete job interviews and polygraph and drug tests. The “one-on-one encouragement and guidance” will include texts, calls, and emails. The agency says its applicants will “loose (sic) interest” and seek higher-paying jobs without such a hands-on approach. A CBP spokesperson, who requested anonymity, says Accenture’s work will help applicants complete tasks “in a timely manner” and “should speed up the time to hire” them.
As for what benefits actually await them, if applicants don’t “loose (sic) interest” during all those backgrounds checks and polygraph tests and actually end up in, say, Arizona, Politico has a fascinating story today about some scenes playing out on the border. According to the magazine, which spent time with those National Guard members sent to the border by the Trump administration in April, the soldiers are mostly acting as unarmed lackeys to border agents.
Agents who manage to go through the whole process with the help of text messages from a recruiter—which, by the way, is estimated to cost $40,000 per person employed—might not get the full cowboy experience. But they may get their own personal national guardsman to shovel “Snuggles the Mustangs’” shit while they’re out running over migrants with their trucks.