On Sunday, John Oliver, with the help of Will Arnett’s gravelly voice, premiered an accurate, honest recruitment ad for the U.S. Border Patrol, which in 2008, relied on promotional vehicles like NASCAR, spending $8.4 million to sponsor one for that season, in addition to releasing TV ads that looked like trailers for action movies, to boost its ranks. Back then, the goal was simple: Increase the USBP to 20,000 agents and do it fast. But doing things fast usually results in errors, and this was no different.
New agents — not all of morally incorruptible — came expecting adrenaline-pumping jobs in the desert, but the reality was much different. Being a border patrol agent is boring and not risky, which isn’t exactly what TV ads released around the time made potential recruits believe:
The commercials overshot the job’s activity levels seemingly as a way to boost numbers for a job that enforces a remarkably contentious political policy. And the hurry-up effort didn’t net the most qualified people, as Last Week Tonight showed.
One anonymous border patrol agent shared accounts of reduced training in Spanish language courses and physical exercise, arguably the two things a border patrol agent most requires. And then, in 2013, reports of agents drinking too much on the job surfaced. Meanwhile weird cases popped up, like the one of two off-duty border patrol agents caught performing a sex act while sitting in the audience at Cirque du Soleil.
Since 2005, 77 agents have been arrested or indicted for corruption, Oliver said. Agents are very attractive to drug cartels, quoting a Texas Tribune reporter that a single corrupted agent can wave literally tons of drugs through into the United States. After of President Donald Trump’s call to hire 5,000 more agents to patrol America’s borders, Oliver had this plea:
“If we are going to hire all these new people, the very least we can do is be more careful this time around, and one tiny step would be to have recruitment ads show potential agents what the job is really like,” he said.
Complete with a Will Arnett voice-over, Last Week Tonight then showed off what it felt was accurate border patrol commercial, which includes a lot of standing around. The fake commercial comes at the very end of this 20-minute segment.
“That’s right, just you, the desert, and nothing for miles around,” Arnett says, showing border agents playing with fidget spinners and drawing penises with a stick in the desert dirt.
“The point is, if you’re kind, physically fit, impervious to bribery or boredom, and you want to serve your country by enforcing a controversial and ever-changing policies in the most humane way possible, then give us a call,” the commercial declares, before imparting an imagined recruitment line: “The Border Patrol: We’re hiring! Wish us luck with that.”