Border Patrol Looks to Tennessee to Meet Quota

"It provides us with people who are used to being outdoors," Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Michael Douglas said. "They have that country or rural-type of attitude and environment and upbringing, and that's what we're looking for."

Douglas leads a team that will talk to all interested parties but will focus particularly on black recruits. Black agents make up roughly 1 percent of the force; the agency wants to raise that number to 10 percent.

Union leaders say the Tennessee stops are the latest in a nationwide tour of desperation to meet the Bush quota. Recruiting teams have visited Baltimore; Charlotte, N.C.; Denver and various Ohio cities in recent months.

"Most people don't want to spend their entire career away from home," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Bonner and Douglas said they didn't think the Border Patrol was targeting areas where opinions on illegal immigration are particularly acute.

Bonner has been critical of the recruiting crunch, saying it hurts the overall quality of the patrol and recruits many agents who leave soon after training.

Unlike military assignments, there is no minimum service requirement for Border Patrol agents.

The Bush mandate came amid growing calls from Democrats and Republicans for immigration reform.

Bush initially sent National Guardsmen to the U.S.-Mexico border to assist the Border Patrol, including about 1,500 members of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard that served in stints from August 2006 to summer 2007.

Attrition thins ranks
The patrol has about 16,000 members, but the agency must hire additional recruits to account for attrition.

The patrol's increased recruitment efforts included the launch last year of a sponsorship of a stock car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Yuri Cunza, president of the Nashville Area Hispanic
Chamber of Commerce, said recruits from Tennessee and other areas might help bring diverse perspectives to the agency.

"If they are recruiting outside the area, maybe that's a good thing, so it's not more of the way and the mentality of the people from border towns," Cunza said.

The starting salary, between $36,000 and $46,000 per year, could appeal to many congregants at the predominantly black Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church, said Rev. Enoch Fuzz.

He received a flyer from the Border Patrol and plans to mention it to several of his young members.

"Most of our people are making definitely under $40,000," Fuzz said. "Especially the kids coming out of college, they'd get on that right away."

Douglas hopes to get 600 to 700 applicants this week before traveling through West Tennessee next month.

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