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In CBP Bill Vote Today, Will House Democrats Be Complicit in Advancing Trump’s Extreme Immigration Agenda?

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Trump Has Already Lowered the Standards of Decency and Accountability in Government; House Democrats Should Not Lower Their Own Standards

This afternoon, Members of Congress will vote on HR 2213 – a CBP bill to enable and expand the Trump Administration’s deportation force by weakening hiring standards for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The bill eliminates polygraph tests for certain applicants – despite ongoing problems with abuse and corruption at CBP. This would allow Trump to further expand the Border Patrol – the largest federal law enforcement agency – with corrupt, unaccountable and “unshackled” agents.

In a new piece for DailyKos, Gabe Ortiz gets to the heart of the issue:

Instead of taking shortcuts and relaxing standards, CBP needs a drastic overhaul when it comes to accountability and oversight. The dozens of people who have been murdered at the hands of CBP agents show that it’s really not refugees who need the “extreme vetting”— those folks already go through a vigorous two-year screening process — but instead the federal immigration agents who have consistently been shown to engage in excessive force, sexual misconduct, and bribery.

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,” said America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry. “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.

Need a reminder about the function that polygraph tests have served for CBP applicants? The following is an excerpted list of the types of people applying to CBP during the last hiring surge, courtesy of Andrew Becker of the Center for Investigative Reporting, based on internal CBP documents:

“The 200-plus “significant admissions” described in the summary reports paint a small yet troubling portrait of some of the kinds of people who have applied to be Border Patrol agents and customs officers since 2008. They also highlight potential weaknesses in the costly hiring process that failed to screen out questionable applicants earlier.

  • In one case from February, Jose Ramirez, 25, admitted during a polygraph exam that he was the driver in a 2009 single-car crash that killed someone. He previously told investigators in Yuma, Ariz., that the dead passenger was the driver, according to the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office. Ramirez now faces second-degree murder and other charges.
  • One applicant admitted to smoking marijuana 20,000 times in a 10-year-period. Another was more bizarre: “Applicant had no independent recollection of the events that resulted in a blood-doused kitchen and was uncertain if he committed any crime during his three-hour black out,” according to the Customs and Border Protection summary.
  • In another example, a woman seeking a job with the bureau told an examiner that she smuggled marijuana into the country – typically by taping 10 pounds of the drug to her body—about 800 times. Scores more admitted that they had engaged in or had relatives involved in human smuggling or drug running. Some said they harbored immigrants not authorized to be in the U.S. or had family members living in the country illegally.
  • Whether a more robust background probe would have discovered the hidden menace on Joseph “Joey” Montross’s home computer will never be known. But a polygraph examiner learned about it just a few weeks after the bureau started the program.  A combat-tested Marine with a security clearance, Montross, then 28, seemed like an ideal candidate. He showed up for a “one-stop” hiring fair hosted by Customs and Border Protection in Dallas in February 2008. The polygraph exam “was his last hurdle,” John Floyd, Montross’s attorney, said in an interview. “He had passed all the other phases.” When asked whether he had ever viewed illegal pornography, Montross confessed that he possessed a large amount of child pornography, Floyd said. Montross consented to a search of the Houston home he shared with his parents and three younger half-siblings, according to his plea agreement. Investigators later found more than 9,000 images and videos of child pornography, the court record shows. He also admitted to producing child pornography. Montross was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release.
  • Montross wasn’t the only veteran who made shocking admissions. Several divulged that they possessed classified information. One said that while in the Army, he “shot and killed an injured Iraqi insurgent; beat an Iraqi during an interrogation and said he kidnapped a child to assist in locating insurgents,” according to the summary produced by Customs and Border Protection.
  • Other people admitted they had sought out a contract killer or took money to kill someone. Another applicant “affirmed that his infant son died … as a result of child abuse,” reads one heavily redacted example.
  • Confessions don’t always lead to prosecutions or convictions, however. Some applicants who confess to or admit they know about crimes might become informants, or a prosecutor ultimately might choose to not pursue a case. That happened last year to Cody Slaughter, a 22-year-old applicant from Somerton, Ariz. In July, the Yuma County sheriff’s office learned from Customs and Border Protection that Slaughter told a polygraph examiner he fondled his best friend’s then-2-year-old sister in 2004 and engaged in bestiality. When interviewed by a detective, Slaughter admitted to the sexual assault, as well as sexual contact numerous times with his horse, a dog and once with a 4-H pig, according to a police report. Slaughter was arrested on suspicion of sexual contact with a minor and three counts of bestiality.”

Andrew Becker of Center for Investigative Reporting obtained this document with a more complete list of corruption and criminal backgrounds of CBP applicants. See here.