U.S. Senator Mark Pryor announced today that his legislation to prevent Mexican drug cartels from corrupting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents has passed the Senate with unanimous consent.
"Border patrol agents are the first line of defense in the fight to secure our borders. We can't have them waiving through drug smugglers or potential terrorists," Pryor said. "That's why it's crucial to have a rigorous hiring process and consistent background checks to weed out bad apples. I am pleased that the Senate put party politics aside to pass this critical legislation," Pryor said.
Pryor said the Anti-Border Corruption Act will help prevent rogue border agents from being hired or retained. It requires the 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.
In March of 2010, Pryor held a hearing investigating corruption of U.S. 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, about 60 percent of candidates failed the test. 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. Investigations of CBP officials have tripled since 2006, and there were 576 allegations of corruption in 2009 alone. In August of 2010, Congress passed and the President signed into law a bill that requires the CBP to hire an additional 1,000 new border patrol agents.
"Increasing the number of agents at our border will only make our country safer if those agents are fully committed to protecting our country," Pryor said. "My legislation will help ensure that these new hires will strengthen, not weaken, our borders. It is my hope the House of Representatives will swiftly pass this common-sense legislation and President Obama will sign it into law. "