The U.S. Border Patrol has grown rapidly. Today, there’s more than 19,000 agents, up from 4,000 two decades ago. But that’s also led to growing pains, says Melissa Del Bosque, who wrote about them in her latest story for ProPublica.
Del Bosque focused on a group of agents who rose through the agency and are now leaving it at a time when the Border Patrol is in crisis.
Over the 10 years she’s covered the agency, Del Bosque says it has dealt with the same problems again and again. That inspired her to look deeper, at the root causes of those problems.
“I really wanted to look at the leadership culture, and sort of dig deeper and examine why these problems keep coming up,” she says.
Del Bosque says those issues can be traced to Douglas, Arizona. In 2000, the small border town was one of the first locations of a mega-Border Patrol station. It was busy, with 650 agents apprehending about 2,500 people a day.
Del Bosque says that most of the Border Patrol’s current leaders came out of the Douglas station.
“I think one of the Border Patrol’s biggest problems is that it rapidly expanded in a short amount of time,” she says. “Congress has never really put adequate oversight on the Border Patrol.”
Del Bosque says the rapid expansion meant that the agency promoted agents who “weren’t really ready to lead.”
Written by Morgan Kuehler.