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Border Patrol begins to offer training closer to Mexico

ARTESIA, N.M. -- A class of 48 aspiring Border Patrol agents has become the first to begin training at an academy closer to the Mexican border they will soon be protecting.

For years, new agents trained in Glynco, Ga., and Charleston, S.C. From now on, they will receive instruction in Artesia at a federal law enforcement center about 150 miles from the border.

That will allow them ''to train in an environment that's realistic, that's relevant to where most Border Patrol agents are assigned and stationed, and that's the southwest border," Robert Bonner, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said Thursday. The government has used the former college campus for more than a decade to train a variety of law enforcement officers, including air marshals after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Bonner said the new agents are ''training to become modern-day centurions." He said border agents no longer merely stand guard against illegal immigrants and drug smugglers; they are a critical line of defense against terrorists. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the government has poured about $30 million into improvements at the former college, from new security and administration buildings to a new 286-room dormitory and cafeteria.

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