A push by the Bush administration to hire 6,000 new agents by the end of this year increased the number of Hispanic agents on duty from 6,400 in 2006 to an estimated 9,300 last month -- a 45 percent increase, said Joe Abbott, director of recruitment for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, The Houston Chronicle reported.
Most of the agents have been hired for communities bordering Mexico, so Hispanic applicants have an advantage because they are fluent in Spanish and understand the culture, said Edward Caballero, 32, a former teacher in the Rio Grande Valley who just became an agent.
Critics of the rapid hiring, however, question whether unsuitable candidates may be allowed to become agents, said James Dorcy, a director of the National Association of Retired Border Patrol Officers.
"The drug cartels are trying to do everything they can to infiltrate the Border Patrol right now," Dorcy told The Houston Chronicle in a story published Monday.
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