© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Real Poop

Are you fiercely patriotic? Do you want to do something to help your country? Great. ¿Habla Español? Can you handle the truth?

Border Patrol Agents do more than just prevent terrorists and terrorism from entering the United States' 6,000 miles of international borders and 2,000 miles of shoreline. Agents apprehend illegal immigrants from coming into the country, prevent smuggling, stop drugs from crossing the border, keep towns near borders safe, and employ "Smart Border" technology (a simulation software that helps the Border Patrol develop new strategies for keeping the border safe). They pretty much do everything but tie on a cape and go flying around, fighting crime and rescuing those in distress. They would, but they know their place, and clearly that’s Batman's job.

Who are the Border Patrol arresting? Imagine growing up in an impoverished border town in Mexico. In your home town, people struggle to get a good education, find employment, and make ends meet. Over in the United States, people are tucked into their nice, comfortable beds from Ikea watching (or trying not to watch) the Kardashians.

It's hard to look away.

You see a tall fence separating you from opportunity. People in town talk of crossing the border to be reunited with their families on the other side, find work, and live a life that is full of possibilities. One night, you pay someone to take you across. It's scary, but you can see freedom through the chain fence. As soon as you cut through the wire, trucks pull up that are full of big guys with big guns. You are now taken into custody. Dreams of a better life are now just that—dreams.

The average Mexican worker makes $4.15 an hour if they have a decent job. It is not hard to see why people try to cross into the United States. However, it is the Border Patrol's job to prevent people from illegally immigrating into the United States.

The fight for safe borders is not a recent development. The Border Patrol was founded all the way back in 1924, at which time there were only 450 agents. Today, there are over 20,000 agents. That drastic increase has little to do with Hawaii and Alaska being admitted to the union in 1959. There aren't too many illegals trying to hop the fence between Tijuana and Honolulu.

Since the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the Border Patrol has redoubled its efforts to hire qualified applicants. To qualify, you must speak Spanish, have a clean criminal record, pass a background test, and be willing to learn certain areas of criminal law. One might think that the Border Patrol only hires serious butt kickers, that it is an elite force of Chuck Norris clones. The border patrol looks for people who can pass their rigorous physical training tests. Their fitness test includes running long distances, climbing, swimming, and heavy lifting. It's best to not be a stranger to the gym before applying. There is more to being an agent than being able to ride horses through harsh terrain and rappelling out of Huey helicopters. Border patrol agents must become experts in criminal law, nationality law, and constitutional law. If they’re going to be laying down the law, they'd better understand it.

A screw-up on the job can lead to a national incident. For example, there was a situation where a border patrol agent shot into a group of undocumented people. The FBI swooped in to conduct a formal investigation. The case is still pending, but when the FBI swoops, it’s usually not a good thing. Furthermore, there are places along the border that are too dangerous to patrol. Border Patrol agents avoid these areas, because if one of them gets killed, the United States starts to have problems with the Mexican government.

To prevent inexperienced rogue agents from entering the field, the Border Patrol sends applicants to a 55-day training facility in New Mexico. If you don't know Spanish, they'll teach you. Border Patrol Agents must be able to communicate in order to patrol the border of Mexico, so you have to know more than "cuidado," "casa," and "burrito."

One of these may cause you to make a run for the border.

New agents are sent to live in Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas. Once situated in their new desert home, most agents are expected to "line watch." "Line watch" is a term that refers to the observation of the border via means of monitoring surveillance cameras, hiding in covert places, following tracks, watching for aircrafts, conducting traffic checks, searching ranches or farms, and patrolling cities.

People cross the border on foot, hidden in trucks and by boat. In fact, there have been incidences where an illegal immigrant was found inside the dashboard of a car. Must have been a large dashboard or an exceptionally small immigrant. Immigrants will also often employ the help of a "coyote." They are not resorting to asking for assistance from a member of the dog family—they’re not THAT desperate. A coyote is a person who charges for helping people cross the border without being detected. Coyotes can be a ruthless bunch. Some charge immigrants thousands of dollars. Border patrol agents see more people dying from dehydration than anything when they patrol the border. Aquafina vending machines are in short supply down there.

Not every Border patrol agent is baking in the heat; some get to make like spies. Agents also patrol the mountainous border between Canada and the United States. These agents don't get to wait inside with hot chocolate until it stops snowing. They must patrol the borders during extreme winter weather conditions. Furthermore, agents monitor the U.S. shoreline using watercrafts and aircrafts. These agents aren't allowed to drink hot chocolate while maneuvering their vehicles either. If you have an unhealthy hot chocolate obsession, this is obviously not the job for you.

The U.S. Border Patrol Agents have the most dangerous job in federal law enforcement. Oftentimes, agents are expected to "line watch" alone, in the dark, with no backup, and surrounded by drug traffickers. Think you’re ready to become a Border Patrol Agent? Developing nerves of steel makes learning conversational Spanish seem easy.

People do desperate things during desperate times. Illegal immigrants have their lives at stake when they cross over. Dealing with such intense desperation, makes patrolling the border dangerous. It is a volatile situation for all parties involved. Unfortunately, the business of crossing the border is always healthy and people continue to die in their struggle for a better life.

If you put in your time you can eventually be making good money, but it will be hard-earned. Like a correctional officer, you have to deal on a daily basis with criminals who have little to lose. Illegals who are attempting to enter the U.S. have already given up on their way of life back home, or are trying to escape some seedy element of their past. They are desperate and willing to risk imprisonment, injury, or even death for a shot at a new start. Hopefully for them, that’s the only shot they get.

You have an enormous responsibility, and the Border Patrol’s work is ongoing. You will need to be seriously dedicated to protecting your nation's borders, as you're probably not going to be around very long if your record earns you the nickname "The Sieve."