Its agents spend 40% of their time looking after people in custody, and other administrative tasks unrelated to border security. Instead of patrolling and finding smuggling activities, they spend around 40% of their time caring.
Agents will be able to return to the field with the agency by hiring civilians to do tasks such as checking hold cells, making sure microwave burritos are properly cooked, and collecting information for immigration court documents.
In January, the Border Patrol graduated its first batch of "processing coordinators", with the aim of eventually employing 1,200. This position is less demanding than that of law enforcement officers, and it pays less. This position is also used to recruit women for agencies that have struggled to find qualified applicants.
Although it is too early to predict how the new employees will perform, initial reviews of the hiring plan are generally positive. They will be highly sought after as the U.S. responds to the sudden arrival of Haitians in Del Rio and other large numbers of newcomers.
"This program is very, very good. It is an essential program," stated Brandon Judd of the National Border Patrol Council labor union, which represents many of the almost 20,000 agents. It will help us get more agents into the field.
U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan of Los Angeles, a Democrat, said to the graduates that they were "pioneers" and visited a Rio Grande Valley holding facility in Texas in April. This is the most important corridor for illegal crossings between Mexico and the U.S.
Barragan stated that unaccompanied children were kept at the facility for several days and could not call their parents. She told the graduating class that agents worked around the clock to quickly process the children, but they needed assistance.
This is particularly true during spikes at the U.S./Mexico border that can be seen in 2014, 2019, and again this year. Coordinator positions can be renewed for up to four years.
Single adults are often expelled without the opportunity to apply for asylum under a pandemic related authority to stop the spread of coronavirus. Children and families that are unaccompanied can apply for humanitarian protection. They have little incentive to flee capture as they will be released to the U.S. with notices of appearance in court.
There are many migrants who cross the border to wait for agents to arrive and may need more care after they do. Border Patrol encounters with families made up 41% and 9% respectively in August.
Agents complain that they don't have enough time to follow migrants to avoid being picked up.
Aide Franco Avalos was a civilian coordinator at a San Diego border station. She got to experience the work in 2019 when she worked for Transportation Security Administration at Palm Springs International Airport, California.
Franco Avalos was a volunteer for a temporary Border Patrol duty in El Paso (Texas) and found fulfillment helping migrants. The Los Angeles native decided to change her career when she saw an opportunity in California that didn't require a move.
She said, "I was unsure what I was getting myself into because it was a new position. But I knew that I needed to assist the agents."
Avalos wanted to be a Border Patrol agent but was 42 when she reached the age limit of 39.
The annual pay for processing coordinators ranges between $35,265 to $51,103. This is far less than what agents make. According to the 2022 budget proposal of the Biden administration, the position will cost 18.5% less than that of an average agent.
In 2014, the Border Patrol began seriously considering creating this job. The discussions intensified after agents were once again challenged by large numbers of asylum-seeking children and families in 2019, many of them from Central America.
Gloria Chavez, the chief of Border Patrol's El Paso Sector, said that it became repetitive and frustrating, but there was no other choice. She was deeply involved in the efforts. "Who can we rely on to help us accomplish this task?" That's when we started to have a conversation.
Chavez stated that the agency hopes to recruit more female agents into its new positions, as women make up about 5% of agents.
She said that the processing coordinators will be working closely with our agents at central processing center. They'll be learning many different skills and building their confidence for everyone. Then, maybe they'll want to apply to those jobs.
Melanie Garcia, 24, quit her job as a prisoner guard in a psychiatric facility in Lubbock, Texas to become a processing coordinator in an El Paso Border Patrol holding centre. She wanted to know more about the agency, and be closer to her family. She described the job as a "really good stepping stone" towards becoming an agent.