It’s a dangerous job guarding our nation’s borders, protecting against criminals and stopping the flow of undocumented immigrants, illegal drugs and contraband.
The U.S. Border Patrol El Centro sector, which includes Indio, El Centro and Calexico, is 1,061 agents strong, but only 77 are women.
“We do face a lot of dangers while working out here especially on our own,” said agent Lilian Segura.
“From one second to the other you’re getting rocked, you’re getting attacked, you’re in a foot chase, you’re in a vehicle chase. Things get crazy,” said agent Eduardo Jacobo.
Border Patrol realizes it needs more agents like Lilian Segura because the number of women crossing the border illegally increased 73 percent since 2011.
Last summer, an overwhelming number of unaccompanied children and women with children crossed the border into the U.S. and because of resources; male agents have to conduct invasive searches on young and female detainees.
“We might suspect that she’s carrying something. We can’t really search them the way a female agent can search them,” Jacobo said.
It underscores the need for more female agents.
“A lot of females are not comfortable speaking to other male agents. They might be in need of medical attention. They could’ve even been assaulted my male smugglers during their journey into the United States. So it’s always easier to have females so they feel more comfortable and at ease. They’re able to better communicate with us and seek help if needed,” said Segura.
The agency is recruiting women at colleges and job fairs and providing border tours. We rode along with Segura and patrolled the El Centro barricades and streets of Calexico.
By the end of September Border Patrol plans to hire 1,600 agents. Not all of the positions have to go to women. However, despite its efforts to hire more of them, still about 85 percent of applicants have been men.
“This career is very diverse. It’s not just line work. We do have other units to offer. We have horse patrol, bike units, ATV’s, mountain grove, prosecutions,” said Segura.
Segura said there’s a misconception.
“It is a male dominated career, but it’s not gender specific. It’s not about being big or strong. It’s about being capable of making quick judgments, being quick on your feet, tactically sound,” said Segura.
Every agent must complete 19 weeks of rigorous training at the Border Patrol Academy.
“We get the same training, the same treatment. We’re out here, they’re my backup. I’m their backup,” said Jacobo.
They undergo anti-terrorism training, self-defense and study law and police science, gain skills in firearms, driving techniques, and become proficient in the Spanish language.
Man or woman.
“Our main mission is to deter terrorists and terrorists weapons from coming into our country. Plain and simple anything that does not come legally through the port of entry, that’s where we come in. We’re the frontline,” said Jacobo.
They’re also first responders when attempts to cross the rugged terrain end in peril. Segura hopes more women will rise to the challenge to protect American soil.
“I always wanted to serve my country and I believe this is a great opportunity to do so,” said Segura.