Could Weaker Vetting For Border Protection Agents Lead to More Corruption?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is proposing to relax the vetting process for border patrol agents after Trump’s directive to beef up the force.

By Alain StephensMarch 14, 2017 2:15 pm|

President Donald Trump has called for more than 5,000 new border patrol agents and 10,000 new immigrations officers with the idea of making the border and the nation safer. But a proposed memo from the Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has proposed relaxing the vetting process on some applicants to the job.

Molly O’Toole was one of the first reporters in the nation to call attention to plans to loosen the CBP hiring requirements in “Foreign Policy Magazine” with her article “Trump Administration Seeks to Loosen Hiring Requirements to Beef Up Border Patrol”.

O’Toole says border patrol applicants already go through a thorough vetting process.

“They go through an extensive background check, a series of interviews, they have physical training tests,” she says. “What’s one of the more controversial of what they go through is a polygraph test. So it’s a pretty extensive procedure that really exacerbates the challenges that CBP already has in hiring border patrol agents.”

 

Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan’s memo outlines challenges that border patrol faces already, O’Toole says, and what would be exacerbated since the order to beef up the number of officer from 19,620 to 26,370. But CBP is already unable to meet the hiring slots Congress has authorized them to fill.

McAleenan also wrote about the step that CBP could potentially take to meet the hiring ramp up.

“Some of the things that he suggested in this memo are allowing certain groups of people a waiver to get around the polygraph altogether,” O’Toole says. “Police officers coming from other parts of the country – other federal law enforcement agencies, veterans, for example – that would have gone through some training and some background screenings already. Loosening background checks and polygraph requirements for other people as well.”

The steps don’t seem too dramatic, O’Toole says, but there are a few things to note.

“Some people have expressed concerns that if you loosen requirements in any way for border patrol that you could potentially be opening yourself up for some of the problems they’ve seen in the past,” she says.

Drug cartels and other criminal organizations along the border target agents to bribe to let people or illicit drugs across the border illegally. Agents are often in rural areas and under paid, O’Toole says. CBP has already had problems with bribery and criminal activity among agents in the past.

“They’re uniquely susceptible to corruption,” she says. “We have seen sort of a spate of cases in the past that were associated with other hiring ramp ups that went on under the Clinton administration, under the Bush administration.”

Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.