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CBP’s Own Internal Documents Show Why Congress Should Vote “No” on HR 2213

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CBP Needs More, Not Less, Accountability; Members Should Not Enable and Expand Trump Deportation Agenda and Force

This week Members of Congress will vote on HR 2213 – a bill to enable and expand the Trump Administration’s mass deportation agenda. America’s Voice Education Fund strongly recommends a no vote on this measure.

The proposed legislation would weaken hiring standards for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) by eliminating polygraph tests for certain applicants – despite ongoing problems with abuse and corruption at CBP.

CBP needs more, not less, accountability. The evidence for this conclusion comes from CBP itself.

Niskanen Center

As the libertarian Niskanen Center noted, CBP abuse and corruption worsened following its last hiring surge:

We must prevent the mistakes that led to corruption and abuse the last time we quickly expanded the number of CBP agents. In the parlance of our times, we need extreme vetting for border patrol agents. Corruption was endemic following the mid-2000s hiring boom … CBP commissioned an external review of use of deadly force in 2013. The final report found 67 cases of the deadly force used by CBP agents/officers in less than two years. It also concluded that ‘too many cases do not appear to meet the test of objective reasonableness with regard to the use of deadly force.’ In other words, agents are too quick to turn to deadly force. In response to the disturbing swell of corruption, abuse, and deadly shootings, Congress convened hearings and thereafter adopted stricter screening procedures for CBP employees, most notably, by requiring a pre-employment polygraph examination.

… the polygraphs have stopped dozens of applicants who have admitted to participation in human trafficking, defrauding the government, links with cartels, and intent to infiltrate CBP—even a shocking number of murders. This comes from the Credibility Assessment Division’s ‘Significant Admissions Summary,’ a report of crimes applicants freely admitted to during polygraph exams. It may be heavily redacted, but it still speaks volumes about hundreds of criminal applicants who were only thwarted by the polygraph standard.

Center for Investigative Reporting

Several years ago, Andrew Becker of the Center for Investigative Reporting relied on the same internal CBP document to highlight the array of CBP applicants who admitted to significant and troubling crimes during polygraph tests as part of their hiring process. Among the disturbing parts of Becker’s Daily Beast story include:

One admitted to kidnapping and ransoming hostages in the Ivory Coast. Others said they had molested children or committed rape. And one, as he prepared for survival in a post-apocalyptic world, contemplated assassinating President Barack Obama. These are among the thousands of applicants who have sought sensitive law enforcement jobs in recent years with the U.S. Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection.

In many cases, these people made it all the way through the hiring process until one of the last steps—a polygraph exam. Once sitting with a polygraph examiner, they admitted to a host of astonishing crimes, according to documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting. The records—official summaries of more than 200 polygraph admissions—raise alarms about the thousands of employees Customs and Border Protection has hired over the past six years before it began mandatory polygraph tests for all applicants six months ago. The mandatory polygraph program comes at the tail end of a massive hiring surge that began in 2006 and eventually added 17,000 employees, helping to make the agency the largest law enforcement operation in the country. Although thousands of applicants have undergone polygraphs, thousands more have been hired without the screening. The admissions open a disturbing window into some of the people who apply for jobs in law enforcement and cast doubt on the bureau’s internal controls …

… The agency said since it began administering polygraphs in 2008, more than 15,000 people have taken the test, and 60 percent were not cleared. It took almost five years, however, for Customs and Border Protection to require all applicants to take a polygraph. In that time, the agency continued to hire potentially flawed candidates.

Sign-on letter from advocates on HR 2213

As this sign-on letter from leading local and national organizations urging a “no” vote on HR 2213 states:

Watering down CBP hiring standards through polygraph loopholes is dangerous and risks employing CBP officers and agents who jeopardize national security and public safety; compromising the largest law enforcement agency in the country … Indeed, former head of CBP Internal Affairs James Tomsheck (2006 to 2014) opposes H.R. 2213, warning Congress not to ‘green-light lower standards for CBP recruits and worsen widespread integrity failures that already plague an agency with the biggest corruption problem in federal law enforcement.’

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

The idea of relaxing standards and undermining accountability for arguably the largest and the most corrupt law enforcement agency in the federal government is appalling. And the idea of Democrats voting for it alongside enforcement-only Republicans is outrageous. The Trump Administration has “unshackled” CBP and ICE agents to terrorize immigrants throughout America. DHS is engaged in a barely-disguised effort to deport millions and to remake the racial and ethnic composition of America. If they succeed, surely this will go down in American history as one of our darkest chapters. Those who care about their place in history would be wise to get on the right side of it.