A year ago, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency started a push for more female agents in the field, pledging to hire 1,600 over the next year. At first, things seemed promising, with over 3,000 applicants. However, at this point only 50 women have been hired and stayed on as customs officers and border patrol agents.
The need is high. Only five percent of border patrol agents are female, the lowest of any federal agency. The number of children and women migrating to the U.S. is also increasing. The journey can be difficult, and women and children are often preyed upon, even sexually assaulted, along the way. Men in uniform can scare these women and children. Border patrol agents have reported women specifically seeking out female officers because they feel safer. Part of the reason behind the push to hire more women is that CBP wants to make these women feel more comfortable.
The recruiting issues are varied. Law enforcement is already a male dominated field, and it is difficult enough to recruit women. Stacy King, supervisory human resources specialist for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, believes they are also facing perception problems. Lately, there has been an abundance of negative press about law enforcement agencies of all kinds.
King has also found that there have been issues with applicants confusing border patrol with the Transportation Security Administration. While both fall under the Department of Homeland Security, the two are separate entities. Still, potential candidates who may have had a negative experience at the airport are much less willing to apply.
Recruitment is not the only issue. Retention is also a problem US Customs and Border Protection. Six percent of women leave within the first year, 2 percent more than men. For many women, the solitary working conditions alone in the field are difficult and occasionally intimidating.
Regardless, U.S. border patrol agencies need women, not just to fill a quota but to help properly service incoming migrants and make them feel welcomed in their new country.