Border Patrol in 95% Hispanic-Latino Texas Town Partners with College to Train Agents

Laredo Community College in Texas has inked a deal with U.S. Customs and Border (CBP) to form a partnership in which CBP will provide instruction at the school to students interested in law enforcement careers.

Laredo Sector Chief Patrol Agent Matthew Hudak
"These agreements illustrate the bond we have with the communities we serve, and they allow for a mutually beneficial relationship that helps us better protect our country," Laredo Sector Chief Patrol Agent Matthew Hudak told Newsweek. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Laredo Sector

CBP's Laredo Sector Chief Agent Matthew Hudak told Newsweek that expansion of the sector has created the need to enlarge the workforce beyond the capacity of CBP facilities for training. The deal will allow the agency to train locally, rather than sending their officers to another center for training.

The new relationship, based upon a one-year agreement, will serve a key role in preparing students enrolled in the college's new homeland security studies program, Heriberto Hernandez, Dean of Workforce Education, told Newsweek.

The city of Laredo, positioned across the border from the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, hosts a population of over 260,000, with 95% of the population of Hispanic or Latino heritage. With 1,900 employees, CBP stands as one of the area's largest employers. Laredo Community College employs more than 850 people.

Laredo College's Dean of Workforce EducationHeriberto Hernandez
"These are the types of jobs that (students) pursue, so there's no real concern, at least that we've seen over the years, over the presence of officers here on campus," Laredo College's Dean of Workforce Education Heriberto Hernandez told Newsweek. Laredo College Facebook

Given CBP's presence in the local economy, Michael Gonzalez, the college's senior director of external affairs, hopes the program can serve as an "economic driver" for the community. He says students who complete it will start their careers earning higher wages. And with 9.3% of the school's 5,348 students enrolled in criminal justice programs, one of the college's top five programs, many students will come in contact with the new program.

But critics see a downside to having CBP on campus.

Some people are concerned about the extent to which border communities rely on CBP for local employment. Josiah Heyman, director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, sees this move as a driver for CBP to extend its influence over the community, a phenomenon he worries may impact the education of those at the college not interested in a career in the field.

Border Patrol in Laredo, Texas
An airboat from the Laredo, Texas, South Border Patrol Station leaves to patrol the Rio Grande River near the Laredo checkpoint on January 13, 2019, next to the International Bridge and border crossing into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

"At a college where many students may be unauthorized, pending asylum, DACA holders, etcetera, having uniformed Border Patrol—on duty, on campus—has a chilling effect on education," he told Newsweek. "Border Patrol is an organization with on-going failure to regulate adequately and limit use of force, including an unjustified homicide in Laredo in 2018."

Last year, the Associated Press reported the family of a Guatemalan woman shot dead by Border Patrol in 2018 brought a suit forward against the agent and federal government. The incident, which occurred at the Laredo sector, took place during an apprehension, during which the lawsuit alleges the woman was a victim of excessive violence and a civil rights violation.

Hernandez dismissed the concerns about CBP presence on campus, saying that since the college is only about 50 yards from the Rio Grande River border, students regularly come in contact with CBP already. He added that officers "routinely" patrol the campus.

"These are the types of jobs that (students) pursue, so there's no real concern, at least that we've seen over the years, over the presence of officers here on campus," Hernandez told Newsweek. "The greater benefit is that we partner with the workforce to make sure that our curriculum is sound."

Nearly 27% of the population in Laredo lives in poverty, and just 20% of the population have a bachelor's degree or higher. CBP does not require a bachelor's degree, but does require three years of professional experience in dealing with the public. The average compensation for CBP's lowest office grade is $45,704. The median household income in Laredo is $47,593.

Hudak said this new relationship will benefit both the CBP and Laredo.

"During my career I have seen other partnerships with universities and colleges," Hudak told Newsweek. "These agreements illustrate the bond we have with the communities we serve, and they allow for a mutually beneficial relationship that helps us better protect our country."