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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde February 1, 2019

Has the number of Border Patrol agents quadrupled since 2005?

Some Democrats say that sending more money to border security is challenging, given recent tax cuts, a $22 trillion debt and a deficit that’s going to be $1 trillion this year.

"We have to make budget choices, and I will also point out that, go back to 2005 until now, we have quadrupled the number of Border Patrol agents," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.

"We have built 700 miles of wall. We have drones and sensors. We have massively increased the amount of money that we spent on border security," Smith added at a Jan. 29 committee hearing.

The U.S.-Mexico border spans about 2,000 miles and has barriers across nearly 700 miles; drones and sensors are also used to monitor the border.

Has the number of Border Patrol agents quadrupled since 2005? No. The number has increased substantially, but not by as much as Smith claimed.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has online data on Border Patrol staffing by fiscal year, from 1992 to 2017.

In 2005, there were about 11,300 Border Patrol agents nationwide. Close to 10,000 worked at the southwest border.

In 2017, there were about 19,400 Border Patrol agents nationwide. Around 16,600 worked at the southwest border.

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Customs and Border Protection told PolitiFact that it now has roughly 20,000 Border Patrol agents. It didn’t specify how many were at the southwest border, but historical data shows that the vast majority are sent to the southwest border.

The nationwide number of Border Patrol agents peaked in 2011 at approximately 21,400 (during the 1992-2017 timeframe), but still short of quadrupling.

Contacted by PolitiFact, Smith spokeswoman Rebecca Bryant said the congressman misspoke and that Border Patrol staffing levels are closer to doubling, not quadrupling 2005 numbers.

The Border Patrol remains understaffed, despite the increased hires. It struggles to retain agents who see a lack of mobility and better opportunities elsewhere, according to a 2018 federal report.

Smith’s remarks came as lawmakers are working on a deal to fund the government and avoid another shutdown mid-February. Trump wants $5.7 billion for a border wall with Mexico; yet Democrats are reluctant to provide that amount for a wall, favoring other security measures.

Our ruling

Smith claimed, "Go back to 2005 until now, we have quadrupled the number of Border Patrol agents."

Government data shows that the number of Border Patrol agents has nearly doubled, not quadrupled from 2005 to current levels.

Smith’s statement is inaccurate. We rate it False.

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"Go back to 2005 until now, we have quadrupled the number of Border Patrol agents."
in a committee hearing
Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Our Sources

C-SPAN, Southern Border Troop Deployment hearing, Jan. 29, 2019

Email interview, Rep. Adam Smith’s spokeswoman Rebecca Bryant, Jan. 31, 2019, United States Border Patrol Border Patrol Agent Nationwide Staffing by Fiscal Year 1992-2017, last accessed Jan. 31, 2019

Email interview, U.S. Customs and Border Protection press office, Jan. 30-31, 2019

DHS Office of Inspector General, DHS Training Needs for Hiring 15,000 Border Patrol Agents and Immigration Officers, Nov. 26, 2018, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION Progress and Challenges in Recruiting, Hiring, and Retaining Law Enforcement Personnel, June 2018, Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, Jan. 25, 2017

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Has the number of Border Patrol agents quadrupled since 2005?

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