Josh Denmark for Customs and Border Patrol via Flickr.com
A week into his presidency, Donald Trump announced he'd "immediately" be hiring 5,000 new U.S. Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. This coincided with news that the number of border patrol agents had dipped below 20,000 for the first time since 2009 — an issue the new president was eager to address.
But CBP officials said that unless Trump changed the hiring process, that goal would take a lot longer than anticipated. Their problem? Two-thirds of CPB job applicants were failing the agency's lie-detector test during the hiring process — which instantly disqualified them.
Equally eager to beef up border police, conservative members of Congress decided to take matters into their own hands. On Wednesday,
the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow certain border patrol applicants to skip the polygraph test step of CBP's hiring process.
Under the new rule, applicants could receive a polygraph waiver if they were law enforcement officers who've passed a polygraph test in the last decade (and aren’t under criminal investigation) or veterans who had served at least three years in the military, held high-level security clearance within the last five years and passed a background check.
“These small changes will provide CBP with immediate relief so they’re able to quickly yet judiciously hire officers and agents from a pool of qualified applicants who already maintain the public’s trust,” Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, the bill's author, said during the House floor debate.
Critics of this policy say the rules are in place for good reason.
“There are many ways to secure the nation," said Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez "But watering down the hiring standards of our men and women in uniform should not be one of them.”
It's not an unfounded concern. When CBP paused polygraph tests in the past, the agency unknowingly hired members of drug cartels, convicted rapists and kidnappers
. Polygraph tests only became mandatory in 2012, after a massive hiring surge preceded an equally massive spike in agents getting arrested for misconduct.
The bill, which passed with partisan support, waits for a vote on a similar bill in the Senate before heading to the president's desk.