U.S. Border Patrol recruiters took their search for new agents to Phoenix International Raceway on Friday in Avondale.
The federal agency is sponsoring NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace at Saturday night’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 in hopes of attracting attention to a nationwide push for new border agents.
President Bush ordered the U.S Customs and Border Protection Agency in 2006 to increase the amount of agents in the field by 50 percent, Assistant Chief Michael Olsen said Friday at the raceway.
In order to meet that goal, Border Patrol decided it was necessary to tap into untouched recruiting resources, such as the traveling NASCAR venue, Olsen said.
“The more agents we get, the safer the country is,” Olsen said.
The agency is on track to hire about 6,000 recruits in 2008 and will hire 1,700 more in 2009, Olsen said. This will bring the total number of agents to about 18,000, Olsen said.
Last year the agency only recruited at 13 races. But this year, Olsen said recruiters have worked at 29 races, which has led to a 49 percent increase in applications.
Noreen Moffett, an agent for 11 years, said the training she received helped prepare her for the everyday dangers she faces.
“Every job has an element of danger,” Moffett said.
Applicants must pass a preliminary round of testing, which includes a medical exam and physical test. They are then sent to an 11-week basic training academy.
Border Patrol agents patrol the borders with Mexico and Canada, as well as the coastal border of the Caribbean Sea, Olsen said.
The Border Patrol booth at the NASCAR venues allows racing fans to interact with agents and get information before applying online, Olsen said.
Larry Lopez, who has been in the federal service for nine years, inquired about a job with Border Patrol on Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. He said he wanted to continue serving his country, and this seemed like a good way.
“It would be good because I can be stationed in Arizona or California,” Lopez said.
Starting agents can expect to make $42,000 plus benefits within the first year, Olsen said.