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This New Bill May Make Corrupt Border Patrol Even Worse

Photo courtesy Customs and Border Protection

Our friends at No More Deaths are reporting this week that Border Patrol agents have surrounded and are surveilling the nonprofit’s humanitarian aid camp in southern Arizona. No More Deaths volunteers provide water, food, shelter and basic medical care to immigrants crossing the border. This aid is life-saving, especially during summer, when temperatures soar over 100 degrees.

As we’ve written previously, Border Patrol agents have a history of threatening No More Deaths volunteers with felonies and even slashing water bottles that volunteers placed on the trail to save the lives of border-crossers. This behavior by BP agents is nothing short of evil. It is also illegal under international human rights law for a government to interfere with humanitarian aid. And it goes against BP’s own agreements with aid groups.

BP’s corruption is likely to get even uglier.

On June 7, the House of Representatives passed the Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act. It’s a misleading name. What it actually does is lower the hiring standards for Customs and Border Protection that were established in 2010 with the Anti-Border Corruption Act. 

This new act would speed up the hiring process and exempt certain law enforcement and military applicants from taking a now-required polygraph test. Is that because most applicants pass the lie detector test, so it’s really not necessary? No. In fact, two-thirds of CBP applicants fail the polygraph test. And, according to a random sample of 1,000 cleared polygraphs, 65 percent of cleared applicants actually failed the polygraph. 

It is clear that instances of mistreatment and abuse in Border Patrol custody… reflect common practice. Many of them plainly meet the definition of torture under international law. – No More Deaths report

According to an op-ed from James F. Tomsheck, who served as Assistant Commissioner of CBP from 2006 to 2014, the things CBP applicants say during these polygraph tests are downright disturbing. “[They] admitted in the screening process to committing serious criminal offenses, including drug smuggling, rape, and infanticide, or confessed to seeking employment as infiltrators paid by transnational criminal organizations or cartels,” Tomsheck writes.

The Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act was proposed to help meet Trump’s executive order mandate to hire 5,000 BP agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. The last time BP and ICE boosted their hiring, corruption and illegal activities also spiked. 

From 2003 to 2016, BP doubled its number of agents, while ICE nearly tripled during the same time period. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of BP employees arrested for civil rights violations or off-duty crimes including domestic violence rose by 44 percent. Between October 2004 and now, nearly 200 CBP employees have been arrested for corruption. Between January 2010 and October 2012, BP agents fatally shot at least 67 people.

No More Deaths has documented more than 30,000 incidences of Border Patrol’s abuse and mistreatment in its report A Culture of Cruelty. “It is clear that instances of mistreatment and abuse in Border Patrol custody are not aberrational,” the report states. “Rather, they reflect common practice… Many of them plainly meet the definition of torture under international law.”

Now that it has passed the House, the Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act will move to the Senate. It doesn’t bode well. A Senate committee (not the full Senate) passed a similar measure last month.