WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mark Pryor said today his legislation to prevent corruption of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents by Mexican drug cartels has passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The bill must now be considered by the full Senate.
The Anti-Border Corruption Act will help prevent rogue border agents from being hired or retained. It requires CBP to follow employment policies requiring polygraph tests of all applicants for law enforcement positions. The requirement would have to be met within two years, providing the agency adequate time to hire and train examiners. The bill also requires the CBP to initiate background checks on all backlogged employees within six months.
“Border patrol agents are on the front lines in the fight against drugs and terrorism. We cannot have Mexican drug cartels bribing and scheming their way into this agency,” Pryor said. “My legislation aims to seal the cracks, using all available tools to prevent and weed out corruption. It ensures that we hire and retain only those who are fully committed to protecting our country.”
In March of 2010, Pryor held a hearing investigating corruption of US border officials. During the hearing, CBP officials revealed that less than 15 percent of job applicants receive a polygraph test during the hiring process, although standing policy calls for all to be examined. Of those applicants who do receive a polygraph test, 60 percent are rendered unsuitable for hiring. Officials at the hearing also said that while CBP employees were required to undergo a background check every five years, the agency has a backlog of 10,000 cases that is expected to rise to 19,000 by year’s end.
In recent years, the CBP has experienced a spike in internal corruption cases as a result of the agency’s swift growth. There have been 129 arrests of corrupt CBP officers and agents since 2003, and 576 allegations of corruption in 2009 alone.
“I’m pleased we have increased the number of agents patrolling our borders, but find it alarming that CPB has not thoroughly screened these hires. If we don’t step up our tactics and fight this rising tide of corruption, we are wasting taxpayer dollars and creating a false sense of security,” Pryor said.