Senate panel approves bill allowing some border patrol agents to skip polygraphs

Senate panel approves bill allowing some border patrol agents to skip polygraphs
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A Senate panel approved legislation on Wednesday that would allow certain border patrol applicants to skip out on lie detector test requirements.

In a 9-2 vote, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee backed the amended bill, which would waive duplicative Customs and Border Protection (CBP) polygraph hiring requirements for applicants who have qualifying law enforcement or military experience.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 Flake secretly wrote book on conservative politics: report Dem campaign arm slams Heller, Flake on healthcare votes MORE (R-Ariz.), is part of an effort to help CBP hire more border agents and staff the nation’s ports of entry. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. John McCainJohn McCainBare bones repeal plan gains steam in Senate Trump triggers storm with transgender ban Overnight Healthcare: Senate rejects repeal-only ObamaCare plan | Ads target Heller, Capito over vote | Dem says ObamaCare repeal effort moving US 'toward single-payer' MORE (R-Ariz.) and Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonBare bones repeal plan gains steam in Senate Trump, electronics manufacturer announce new Wisconsin plant Live coverage: Senate debates repealing ObamaCare MORE (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security panel.

The measure comes as President Trump has called for hiring thousands more border agents in order to enforce his crackdown on immigration and drug smuggling.

But CBP is facing a major staffing shortfall, with 1,700 border patrol agent positions and 1,000 CBP officer positions unfilled at the agency.

Some have blamed the way lie detector tests are administered at the CBP, which has seen failure rates far higher than any other government agency that requires polygraphs for its employees.

Since 2013, all applicants for law enforcement positions at CBP have been required to pass a polygraph test. But only about 1 percent of applicants end up successfully being hired, according to Flake’s office.

Flake hopes to help ease the pre-employment screening process for certain law enforcement officers and military veterans.

“At a time when Arizonans are rightfully demanding a secure border, it’s unjustifiable to be turning away qualified applicants with distinguished military and law enforcement service because of a potentially flawed polygraph,” Flake said in a statement.