Already, approximately two-thirds of CBP applicants fail polygraph exam
Tomorrow, the House of Representatives votes on HR 2213, which would allow Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to waive the polygraph test for certain new hires, while a Senate committee holds a hearing on their version of the bill – the Boots on the Border Act authored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol are two of the worst law enforcement agencies in the nation. The Border Patrol needs accountability for its abuses and reform of its ranks, not weaker standards to hire more corrupt cowboys. Instead of jumping to answer Trump’s call for a mass Deportation Force by relaxing hiring standards, Republicans in Congress and DHS Secretary Kelly should be working to get these agencies in order.
CBP’s long, ugly history
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have a long and ugly history of corruption, use of excessive force, and other abuses. Already, approximately two-thirds of applicants fail their polygraph tests. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security’s own CBP Integrity Advisory Panel recommended expanding polygraph tests to include post-employment interviews. Removing this requirement will only further weaken the professionalism and integrity of this massive agency. Consider the following:
- At Newark airport, CBP officers are being investigated for a sexually assaultive “hazing” ritual that involves a “rape table”
- CBP agents are reportedly turning away asylum seekers at the border, which is a violation of international law
- According to a recent report, some 140 CBP agents have been arrested or convicted of corruption charges in the past dozen years, a rate of corruption that a former CBP senior official said “exceeded that of any other US federal law enforcement agency”; the Texas Observer has written about how multiple other agencies have had to investigate CBP officers
- A Border Patrol agent was recently accused of sexually assaulting a young asylum seeker and her sister. Between 2010 and 2016, there were 33,126 complaints of sexual and/or physical abuse against DHS agencies, 31% of which were filed against CBP.
- In January, the government settled a $1 million case where a teenager died after CBP told him to drink liquid meth – the agents involved still work for the agency
- CBP in the Trump era has been searching the phones of US citizens, detaining travelers until they unlock their phones, demanding access to sensitive materials, giving coding interview questions to a traveler they didn’t believe was an engineer, and asking passengers to show ID after a domestic flight
- In 2015, the ACLU sued DHS “for its failure to produce records related to the abuse and mistreatment of children in the custody of” CBP
- In 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported that just “13 of 809 abuse complaints sent to the [Border Patrol] agency’s internal affairs unit between January 2009 and January 2012 led to disciplinary action.”
- A Politico expose on CBP from 2014 called Border Patrol “America’s most out-of-control enforcement agency”
- A 2014 independent review found that CBP agents would deliberately step into the path of cars to justify shooting at the drivers
- CBP officers have shot and killed teenagers for throwing rocks, then been cleared of wrongdoing by the agency’s internal affairs office
- A 2013 report from the Office for the Inspector General for DHS found that CBP has been lodging so many complaints of excessive force – and recording them so poorly – that a proper tally couldn’t be identified.
What happened the last time CBP didn’t use polygraph tests
As the Atlantic wrote recently, CBP underwent a rapid hiring surge in the years after 9/11, similar to the kind of hiring surge Donald Trump wants today. At the time, CBP didn’t use polygraph tests to vet applicants, and some agents were sent into the field before background checks were complete, leaving veterans to mock the recruiting program as George W. Bush’s “No Trainee Left Behind” policy.
When CBP decided to clean up its house after corruption and excessive use of force complaints spiked, a polygraph exam was piloted – and immediately uncovered 30 applicants sent by cartels to infiltrate CBP. Though the polygraph is now administered for all new hires, it was not retroactively tested on those hired before the exam was required – and today, officials conservatively believe that 5% of CBP (about 1,000 agents) could be corrupt.
Apparently, Republicans in Congress are more concerned about ramping up Trump’s Deportation Force than ensuring these agents act with integrity. But our federal tax dollars pay for these agents, and Americans expect them to be fully vetted, adequately trained, and entirely professional – which is a far cry from where things stand today.
Read more about abusive practices from ICE and CBP here.
Read an op-ed from a former CBP official about how the proposed bills would increase agency corruption.