By Brett Gillin
Each year, tens of thousands of people cross the Southern border into the United States. According to U.S. officials, last year alone, roughly 121,000 of these migrants were women, which represented a 173 percent increase over the previous year. Because of the ever-increasing number of women attempting to cross into the United States, the U.S. Border Patrol plans on hiring 1,600 new female agents by the end of this year.
Agent Yesenia Leon, who has been a part of the Border Patrol for five years, told Fox News “Of course we need a lot more female agents to pat search (women), for their safety and ours as well. It’s not necessary for a female to pat search another female, but it is preferred.”
Many of the people crossing into the United States are coming from countries further south than Mexico. Because of this longer journey, these people face much greater risks and dangers, especially of being sexually assaulted during their longer journeys, according to Amnesty International. In fact, Amnesty International estimates that up to 60% of these migrants may have been sexually assaulted during their journey to the United State. Agent Marcella Benson, who has been with the Border Patrol for seven years, told Fox News this is another reason that adding more female agents is important.
“If we have more females, we kind of are able to relate to a female a little easier than it would be for a male to relate,” Benson told reporters.
As it currently stands, only five percent of the Border Patrol agents in the United States are female. When compared to active duty military and law enforcement agencies, this percentage falls well short of the 15 percent represented in those professions.
“As a police chief for a long time, I know that women in law enforcement bring a huge amount of positive to any law enforcement agency, and increasingly those numbers for the Border Patrol will do exactly the same thing,” Border Patrol Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske told The Washington Post in an interview. “Women bring a perspective and negotiating skill to law enforcement that we very much need.”
To date, more than 5,700 women have applied to join the Border Patrol. Those selected will go through a rigorous hiring process which, according to Fox News, includes a written exam, an oral interview, a physical, a polygraph test, and an extensive background check. Then, once all of those hurdles are passed, the real tough work begins.
“I can tell you that most classes that start with a full class do not graduate with a full class,” Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Jennie Marquez told reporters. “Because our job in the field is very diverse, very dynamic (with) different terrain, environments and different situations that we’ll encounter on a daily basis.”
Despite the rigorous training and tough physical work involved, Agent Yesenia Leon still encourages women to apply. “We have a lot of activities and details they could do, whether it’s prosecutions, working in the intel department, working with A TVs, horse patrol, bike patrol. You gotta be ready for anything because things change from one second to the other.”