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John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight: Weakening Standards While Hiring Thousands of CBP Officers Would Be Serious Mistake

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Customs and Border Protection has been called America’s most “out-of-control” and ‘most corrupt’ enforcement agency, yet Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans want to trim back hiring standards so that 5,000 new agents can be brought on in an alarmingly short period of time.

That was the subject of yesterday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” hosted by John Oliver. You can watch the segment below:

Legislation to add CBP officers has been on the move — in June, House Republicans passed HR 2213, while in the Senate, equivalent legislation from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has been proposed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Both of these bills do the same thing — authorize the hiring of thousands of new CBP officers while weakening standards for their hiring, including doing away with requirements for some applicants to take a polygraph test.

As we’ve written about before, the fact that Trump and Republicans want to weaken hiring standards is baffling considering CBP’s long, ugly history of abuse and corruption. They’ve been convicted of ties to cartels and shot unarmed teenagers at the border. They made headlines for a hazing ritual involving a “rape table” and egged a teenager to drink liquid meth until he died. The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security recently questioned whether we even need more CBP agents. From where we’re standing, more scrutiny and accountability is what the agency needs.

John Oliver underscored this point by highlighting how Border Patrol doubled its number of agents in the late 2000s, after 9/11 and during the Bush Administration. The results weren’t great, and as he summarized the lesson learned:

If you hire agents quickly and badly, that can actually leave us much less safe and have devastating consequences; and the reason we know this, we have been down this road before…

The big problem was, as they doubled in size, meeting, and maintaining their hiring quotas meant their screening process wasn’t always as strong as they could have been. It was only later in the search that the CBP started giving applicant polygraph tests, something that most other law enforcement agencies do…

Despite all of these warning signs, we’re about to embark upon another ambitious border patrol hiring surge…

Worriedly, there has already been talk that hiring standard might drop again, with suggestions like shorter polygraphs, or removing parts of the entrance exam.

Trump seems determined to do this anyway. Who knows why? There’s a very good chance he only said 5,000 because somebody told him five bazillion is not a real number…

For the sake of absolutely everybody — if we are going to hire all these new people, the very least we can do is be more careful this time around.

Watch the segment here.