Border Patrol struggles to recruit agents amid immigration crackdown

‘We’re already behind. We’re not hiring fast enough to keep up with the attrition.’ Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown has a problem: not enough Americans are willing to carry it out.

The Border Patrol is losing agents faster than it can replace them, putting a question mark over the president’s plan to ramp up the force.

Air and Marine Operations, a separate agency, is also struggling to find pilots and other employees.

“If you know people who are enthusiastic about border security please send them to Customs and Border Protection (CBP),” Ronald Vitiello, the Border Patrol chief, said in an appeal this week. “We’re already behind. We’re not hiring fast enough to keep up with the attrition.”

Trump has ordered the agency to add 5,000 agents to beef up patrols and surveillance in advance of his proposed border wall. But its current 19,000-strong force is already 2,000 shy of a target set during the Obama administration.

Officials said tough screening, especially a lie-detector test, rejected many qualified candidates, and that tough conditions such as living in remote, rugged areas prompted more than 1,000 agents to quit every year.

“Some people just don’t want to live there,” said Randolph “Tex” Alles, acting deputy commissioner of CBP, a 60,000-strong agency that includes Border Patrol. “Hiring challenges are not new. Attracting and recruiting high quality individuals is a challenge for us.”

Border Patrol officials are especially nervous that a planned expansion of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) – Trump has ordered it to add 10,000 agents – will precipitate a stampede to the sister organisation. “There’s a real concern that a lot of that will come from Border Patrol,” Huffman said.

Vitiello, his boss, was even bleaker: “[They] could get them all from CBP.”

Ice looks for undocumented people in the US, so its agents live in cities, not desert outposts, and the agency offers more overtime opportunities.

It has another recruitment advantage: no lie-detector test. About two-thirds of CBP applicants fail the polygraph, the Associated Press reported in January.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.



Mexico will not accept unilateral Trump immigration steps, foreign minister says

Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, leaves the US Department of State after a meeting on 8 February in Washington. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, leaves the US Department of State after a meeting on 8 February in Washington. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s foreign minister, was responding to Donald Trump’s plans to enforce immigration rules more vigorously against undocumented migrants, which could lead to mass deportations to Mexico, not just of Mexicans but also citizens of other Latin American countries.

“We are not going to accept it because we don’t have to accept it,” Videgaray said, according to the Reforma newspaper. “I want to make clear, in the most emphatic way, that the government of Mexico and the Mexican people do not have to accept measures that one government wants to unilaterally impose on another.”

Tens of thousands of migrants – mostly from Central America, but increasingly from further afield – transit Mexico annually in attempts to reach the US border. Mexico has turned enforcer, imposing the Southern Border Plan in 2014 to detain and deport migrants transiting Mexican territory, even as it doggedly defends its own nationals at risk of deportation in the United States.

In recent interviews, the economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, has raised the possibility of Mexico suspending cooperation on migrant enforcement. He told the news channel Milenio: “There would be no incentive to continue collaborating on important issues for North American security such as migration issues” if Nafta were abandoned.

Brandon Capece, a research fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, said the state of bilateral relations was at its lowest point since the 1980s, when the two countries were locked in ideological differences over foreign policy and before the signing of Nafta in 1994 made them economic partners, with more than $1.5bn in trade crossing the border each day.

“Even renegotiating Nafta is something that can be mutually beneficial for all three nations involved, but only if Trump can move beyond his misperceived notion that the United States is somehow the victim in this relationship,” Capece said. “That being said, given the failure of the Trump administration to articulate a clear foreign policy and their reluctance to rely on experts within the Washington foreign policy establishment, it is unlikely that this trip in and of itself will calm nerves in either Washington or Mexico City.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site here.

States where Trump is most likely to create new jobs.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he will create new jobs and make America great again. Trump implied workers in the coal mines and rust belt areas of the United States will be working again and immigrants will be deported.

And he may well be right. Only those unemployed coal mine workers and former workers in the rust belt area of the US likely won’t be employed in their prior trade.

Many of Mr. Trump’s supporters have a grade 12 or less education. In the 2016 election, a wide gap in presidential preferences emerged between those with and without a college degree. College graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52%-43%), while those without a college degree backed Trump 52%-44%. This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980. ( PEW Research article )

PEW Research Center

PEW Research Center

Trump supporters with a less than college education will have an opportunity to be retrained in order to fill the high number of new vacancies created by the policies created by Mr. Trump.

Where will Mr. Trump create all these new jobs?

Mr. Trump has vowed to deport 2-3 million illegal immigrants with a criminal degree of some kind. That still leaves about 11 million immigrants in the US.

Deporting or putting in jail 14 million illegal immigrants leaves a pretty big hole in the employment picture. Why? Here is a state-by-state map of immigrants and their main employment. Many of these immigrant jobs might be held by visa, many may not.


While the map shows that many immigrants are housekeepers, janitors and agricultural workers, the majority of jobs thought to be overwhelmingly worked by non-natives are in fact filled by native-born Americans, according to the Center for Immigration Studies:

  • Maids and housekeepers: 51% native-born
  • Taxi drivers and chauffeurs: 58% native-born
  • Butchers and meat processors: 63% native-born
  • Grounds maintenance workers: 64% native-born
  • Construction laborers: 66% native-born
  • Porters, bellhops, and concierges: 72% native-born
  • Janitors: 73% native-born

Jobs worked by immigrants tend to pay low wages and usually require little formal education, like those agricultural jobs in California and other dark blue states in the map above.

In high-immigrant occupations, 59 percent of the workers have a high school education or lower, compared to 31 percent of the rest of the labor force. ( Read complete article on immigrants here. )

So as the state-by-state map shows, there are many opportunies for new jobs thanks to Mr. Trump’s promise of creating new jobs. Yes, Mr. Trump promised new jobs. He just didn’t promise good paying new jobs.

America’s poorest border town: no immigration papers, no American Dream

Colonia Muñiz is the third stop for a series of Guardian dispatches about the lives of people trying to make a life in places that seem the most remote from the American Dream. According to one measure, the US Census Bureau’s American community survey 2008-2012 of communities of more than 1,000 people – the latest statistics available at the time of reporting – the median household income was just $11,711 a year, putting it among the four lowest income towns in the country, and has since fallen to $11,111. Nationally it was $53,915 in 2012.

In Colonia Muñiz, more than 60% of households fall below the poverty line, including all of those headed by single mothers with children at home. About a third of the workforce is unemployed, although even for those with jobs their work is often seasonal and fails to provide a steady income.

In much of the US, the American Dream is often regarded as a birthright. For many who live in Colonia Muñiz, it is a symbol of hope but also a reminder of their second-class status and their complicated relationship with the US. “As a child I didn’t feel good because I wished I was an American but I’m not,” said Maria. “What Obama has done is good and I’m proud the United States has helped us. It is a good country. But I want it for my parents too.”

That may yet happen. Under a more recent presidential executive order, undocumented parents of US citizens and legal residents can now also apply for protection from deportation and a work permit. That includes Vallejo, who has two children who were born in the US. The order does not cover the parents of those who have applied under the earlier order, such as Maria. But her brother in Florida now has permanent residence, a green card. That should open the path for Theresa and Emilio if politics doesn’t get in the way.

The programme is on hold after Texas and 25 other states launched a legal action to challenge the president’s authority to issue the order, although more than 100,000 permits were already issued before the legal intervention. Theresa is waiting. She has a wood burning oven in her backyard on which she cooks Mexican food. “I want to be able to put up a sign in front of my house: tamales for sale,” she said. “I cannot do it now. Immigration may see it and come and ask questions. But one day I will do that, thanks to Obama.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site here.

The unfounded fear of Muslim immigration

An article by Doug Saunders in The Globe and Mail today looks at the “Muslim tide” in the west and our own capacity for fear, including our  fear of Italian or Irish Catholics.

An excerpt:

The unease I felt on the sidewalks and buses of our London neighbourhood was not a novel sensation.

If I had lived there a dozen decades earlier, I would have watched the streets fill with suspicious-looking men and women wearing identity-concealing head scarves. Their families were widely believed to belong to an alien civilization. They segregated themselves from the native-born population, were guided by a deeply conservative religion that seemed at odds with modern values, and had the world’s highest reproduction rate. And they were using my neighbourhood to plot a wave of terrorist attacks that killed more Londoners and caused more political alarm than the jihadist attacks of the new millennium.

Today, the Irish Catholics I’m describing are simply part of the neighbourhood’s mix, their pubs and churches an integral part of London’s culture. But for seven decades, Roman Catholics and East European Jews were widely regarded as disloyal, impossible-to-integrate members of an outside civilization. And not just in Britain: If you lived in Canada or the United States in 1950, you would have been aware of a certain type of immigrant seemingly determined to impose their values on their new home – guided by a religion that was not so much a faith as an ideology of conquest.

One of the bestselling books of the period, American Freedom and Catholic Power by Paul Blanshard, argued that Catholic culture is “a survival of mediaeval authoritarianism that has no rightful place in the democratic American environment.” The book was endorsed by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, and had great influence in Congress and academia.

In Canada, Italians, along with most other southern European Catholics, were classed as “non-preferred.” One government memo of the time said of the Italian Catholic worker: “even his civilization seems so different that I doubt if he could even become an asset to our country.” Outside of Quebec, it was quite normal to describe Catholic immigrants as an unwelcome and dangerous addition – and their “civilization” probably appeared (and in some ways was) more alien to Anglo-Americans than that of most urban Muslims today.

These statements sound like grotesque religious prejudice today, but to many they seemed well-justified at the time. After all, most Catholic countries had fallen to fascism or religious extremism; Catholic immigrant neighbourhoods were crime-ridden, violent and impoverished; and the worst acts of North American terrorism to that point had been committed by people from Catholic backgrounds. Who wouldn’t look askance at their Catholic neighbours?

Read the complete article here.