House votes to allow lie detector exemptions for Border Patrol hiring


The House passed bipartisan legislation on Wednesday to waive lie detector test requirements for prospective Customs and Border Protection workers, part of an effort to help speed agency hiring.

The bill, approved on a 282-137 vote, would allow the CBP commissioner to make polygraph exemptions for certain candidates who are law enforcement officers or veterans. 

To qualify for a waiver, the candidates would have to be law enforcement officers who have passed a polygraph test in the last decade and aren’t under investigation or guilty of misconduct. Veterans would need to have served at least three years in the military, held a high-level security clearance in the last five years and passed a background check.

{mosads}Proponents of the legislation cited shortages of more than 1,400 CBP officers and 1,700 Border Patrol agents, in part because nearly two-thirds of applicants fail the polygraph tests. 

“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,” said Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), the author of the bill who represents a district along the U.S.-Mexico border.

McSally introduced the legislation with bipartisan support from Democrats who also represent border districts. Texas Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar and Filemon Vela were both original cosponsors. 

But other Democrats expressed concern that the measure would water down stringent employment requirements for CBP officers.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) warned that the bill, by speeding up hiring of CBP agents and officers by offering polygraph waivers, supports President Trump’s immigration agenda, including large-scale deportations and the construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

“Anyone who votes for this bill is voting to support and implement Donald Trump’s views on immigration, his desire to militarize our southern border, and his fantasy of a massive deportation force,” Gutierrez said during House floor debate. 

“There are many ways to secure the nation. But watering down the hiring standards of our men and women in uniform should not be one of them.”

But Cuellar pushed back against the notion that making it easier to CBP to add to its ranks would contribute to a mass deportation force, noting that the bill does not apply to Immigration and Customs Enforcement hiring practices. 

“This has nothing to do with deportation,” Cuellar said. “What this bill actually does [is] it will strengthen CBP’s efforts to secure our border by filling those positions.”

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