Bor­der pa­trol may ease lie-de­tec­tor rule

Agency’s act­ing chief says test has hurt hir­ing ef­forts.

Austin American-Statesman - - FATAL BUS CRASH - By El­liot Sp­a­gat

Seek­ing to com­ply with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s or­der that it hire 5,000 new Bor­der Pa­trol agents, U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion would ex­empt many job can­di­dates who are vet­er­ans or law en­force­ment of­fi­cers from a re­quire­ment that they take a lie-de­tec­tor test, ac­cord­ing to a memo re­leased by the agents’ union.

The memo by Kevin McAleenan, act­ing Cus- toms and Bor­der Protec- tion com­mis­sioner, calls the poly­graph tests a “sig­nifi- cant de­ter­rent and point of fail­ure” for ap­pli­cants and a dis­ad­van­tage as the Bor­der Pa­trol com­petes against Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment to re­cruit em­ploy­ees. ICE, a sep­a­rate agency that is re­spon­si­ble for de­port­ing im­mi­grants and is un­der or­ders from Trump to hire 10,000 peo­ple, does not re­quire lie de­tec­tor tests.

About two-thirds of job ap­pli­cants fail the Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion poly­graph tests, more than dou­ble the av­er­age rate for law en­force­ment agen­cies that pro­vided data un­der open-records re­quests. Those fail­ures are a ma­jor rea­son why the Bor­der Pa­trol re­cently fell be­low 20,000 agents for the first time since 2009. Many ap­pli­cants have com­plained about be­ing sub­jected to un­usu­ally long and hos­tile in­ter­ro­ga­tions.

Any waiver of the lie-de­tec­tor man­date may re­quire con­gres­sional ap­proval due to a 2010 law that in­tro­duced the re­quire­ment as part of an ef­fort to root out cor­rup­tion and mis­con­duct af­ter an ear­lier hir­ing surge dou­bled the size of the Bor­der Pa­trol in eight years. McAleenan’s memo is ad­dressed to the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart- ment deputy sec­re­tary for ap­proval, sug­gest­ing that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion may not yet back the plan.

CBP of­fi­cials did not imme- di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on Wed­nes­day. Home­land Se­cu­rity Se­cre- tary John Kelly, who over­sees both CBP and ICE, told re­porters Tues­day in Dal­las that he still thinks the poly­graph is “a good idea,” while ac­knowl­edg­ing that it has hin­dered hir­ing.

The Na­tional Bor­der Pa­trol Coun­cil, which rep­re­sents Bor­der Pa­trol agents, re­ceived the memo Tues­day and has been work­ing closely with the agency on hir­ing plans, said Shawn Mo­ran, a union vice pres­i­dent. He called the changes to the poly­graph re­quire­ment “a more com­mon­sense ap­proach” and said cur­rent fail­ure rates are “ridicu­lous.”

“Ob­vi­ously we want to get the best can­di­dates. We want to make sure that we have strin­gent back­ground checks, but when it comes to the poly­graph, that thing, I think, has been far too ex­ces­sive in weed­ing out po­ten­tially good can­di­dates,” Mo­ran said.

A for­mer of­fi­cial who played a key role in­tro­duc­ing the poly­graph tests said Wed­nes­day the hir­ing plan was “a roadmap to fur­ther com­pro­mise the cur­rent and fu­ture in­tegrity of CBP.” James Tomsheck, who was the agency’s in­ter­nal af­fairs chief from 2006 to 2014, said McAleenan “is at­tempt­ing to de­grade the vet­ting” to ac­com­mo­date a po­lit­i­cal man­date. “Ul­ti­mately this data-de­prived de­ci­sion will greatly re­duce se­cu­rity at our bor­ders,” Tomsheck wrote in an email.

GREGORY BULL / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Bor­der Pa­trol agents ride ve­hi­cles where the bor­der meets the Pa­cific Ocean in San Diego. Vet­er­ans and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers seek­ing jobs would avoid lie-de­tec­tor test un­der a new plan.

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