IMPERIAL, Calif. (KYMA) They're the guardians of our border. In the last fiscal year alone, the El Centro sector border patrol stopped over 35,000 illegal entries into the United States. Nabbing thousands of pounds of drugs at multiple ports of entries.
Covering over 70 miles of soil between the U.S.-Mexico border, Border Patrol Agent, Carlos Pitones of the El Centro Sector said, agents rely on one another in the field.
"As border patrol agents we have situational awareness. That goes to our partners to our left and our right as well. If we do have a situation where I need backup to respond, it might be five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes from my location. So it's very important to know my fellow agents to working the areas next to me."
Border Patrol Agent Eduardo Jacobo, said over 700 agents make up the El Centro Sector. But across the southern border recruitment has seen a decline.
"So we're currently below staffing levels. Our target goal is to reach 21,370. And we're at around approximately 19,000 right now. "
That’s where these new recruits come in.
Without the new recruits, it'll be difficult for border patrol to complete the task at hand especially with a new and improved legacy wall set to be done next fall.
"We need the manpower. To be able to patrol the borders. To be able to keep our nation safe, to keep the public safe. To keep our community safe. The more manpower the better we can achieve that mission."
One advantage the border patrol has is that the age requirement to enlist is 18. Something Agent Jacobo recalls his reason to join as a first-time father.
"I had two minimum wage jobs at the time. So I needed to have a secure career for me and for her and for my family. So It's definitely why I applied. And it was one of the best moves I've ever made."
For 5 years now, the joint project between Calexico High School's Criminal Justice Program and the El Centro Sector Border Patrol has prepared students for a possible career in law enforcement.
Agent Pitones said, "Some of these students might not know if they want to continue on to go to school or to join the military. Or to even have a job working to help their families. So it's satisfying to know that they can join the border patrol right out of high school."
Mike Davies, an instructor in the Calexico Criminal Justice Program, brings in experts in all military branches to provide students with career prospects they can follow.
Davies said, "We try to expose them to a lot of different things hoping that something will ring a little bell and say well that's what I like."
But the annual mock academy gives students in the criminal justice program a taste of the law enforcement academy.
"Not get that shock and awe that kids that don't go through these programs would get upon arrival. Because they've been exposed to the hardcore discipline. The physical training and so forth," said Davies.
After two years in the program, Valeria Acuna, a student in the program plans on joining the U.S. Marine Corps, followed by a career in customs and border protection.
Acuna reflects on how the criminal justice program has helped her grow.
"I was really quiet, I was shy. In fact when I came in the 11th grade, I sat all the way in the back. And now I'm more motivated. I sit in the front. I'm more talkative. I'm not shy anymore."
The program has also taught students like Pedro Alvarado, to be leaders.
"I encourage my fellow companions to better themselves. And not quit at the first lap we do. If they're slacking I always try to be near them even though I ran my laps already it does not matter as long as they ran there. It makes me feel accomplished."
Whether its job fairs or those with military experience, the agency continues looking for new blood keep our border safe.
Agent Jacobo added, "We're continuously looking for new ideas. Innovative ideas to put the word out there. And to educate people about the border patrol. And the benefits of achieve or gaining a career in the border patrol."