A female Iraqi refugee hopes to give back to America and become a federal agent when she completes a grueling training regiment at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy. Ben Gruber reports.
Surrounded by men, many of which come from law enforcement and military backgrounds, Stevani Shakare has a single goal in mind - just don't give up. It's easier said than done. Shakare is one of just a few females currently attempting to complete one of the most grueling and intense training academies in the United States. She wants to become a U.S. border patrol agent and knows the odds are stacked against her. (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEVANI SHAKARE, STUDENT AT BORDER PATROL ACADEMY, SAYING: "I am obviously very short and tiny so I have to compete with that but that motivates me more knowing that I have made it as far as they did and I just have to keep up with them because at the end of the day we all have the same job. They are going to be my partners out there so I have to be just as strong as they are, in order to, you know, say they are down or something, I have to be able to protect them and protect myself and bring us both home safely." Shakare came to the United States as a ten-year-old refugee, fleeing a war-torn Iraq in 2004. She says she learned English watching crime dramas on TV. (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEVANI SHAKARE, STUDENT AT BORDER PATROL ACADEMY, SAYING: "This country gave me my education, gave me what I know now. Had I stayed in Iraq, especially with everything going on now, I probably wouldn't have ended up to where I am today. Probably wouldn't have gone to college, wouldn't have gotten a degree, nothing like that. So I feel like I owe my life to this country. Absolutely." The U.S. Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico puts students through 112 days of intense training where they need to master several skills. The goal is to be able to track, apprehend, and arrest illegal immigrants and drug traffickers attempting to enter the United States. To graduate, students need to be fluent in Spanish and well versed in complex immigration law. President Donald Trump has put border security as one of his administration's top priorities and issued an executive order to add 5000 agents to the border patrol. Violent crime along the U.S. southern border has increased 200 percent over the past year alone, according to Chief Patrol Agent Dan Harris, who runs the academy. He says that having border security at the epicenter of the political debate in Washington will help with recruitment efforts. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAN HARRIS, CHIEF PATROL AGENT, UNITED STATES BORDER PATROL ACADEMY, SAYING: "Anytime time we can educate the public about these men and woman that are willing to put their life on the line, who want to keep bad people and things out of the country, that helps us." Women currently make up approximately 5 percent of the agency's force - Harris says that number needs to rise. Stevani Shakare couldn't agree more. She says she is very aware her chances of making it through the academy may be slimmer than some of her male colleagues - but that fact - she says - just motivates her more.