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 is primed for President Obama's signature. The legislation, passed by the Senate unanimously in September, was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening.
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.
"As we strengthen the U.S.-Mexico border, drug cartels are getting more creative and waiving big money at U.S. border patrol agents who are willing to waive through illegal shipments," Pryor said. "My legislation ensures that a rigorous hiring process and consistent background checks are used to weed out bad apples. "
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 tested, an alarming 60 percent of candidates failed the test.
In one case, an individual sought employment as a border inspector specifically to smuggle drugs. He imported more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana to the U.S. and received more than $5 million in bribes. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.
Pryor said there has been a spike in internal corruption cases, in part because of the agency's swift growth. Investigations of CBP officials have more than tripled since 2006, and there were 770 allegations of corruption this year 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.
"Just last week, a border security agent was murdered by suspected drug gang members in Southern Arizona, and a border patrol agent was arrested in a sting operation that led to the discovery of some $2.8 million in illegal narcotics. It is clear that drug gangs will stop at nothing to move their product, and will use their resources to try and corrupt our personnel if we don't seal the cracks in our hiring process now," Pryor said. "It is my hope President Obama will swiftly sign this legislation into law to strengthen integrity at the border."