By Alicia A. Caldwell and Elliot Spagat
March 15, 2017
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Border Patrol will not lower hiring standards to satisfy President Donald Trump’s order to add 5,000 agents and will need several years to hit its target, administration officials said Wednesday.
A precise timeline has not been set, but one official said the goal was to hire as many agents as possible in four or five years. Another official said it wouldn’t happen overnight.
Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, would speak only on condition of anonymity, despite Trump’s insistence that reporters should only quote people by name.
The hiring surge is a key piece of Trump’s immigration orders that has drawn less attention than his travel ban and his plans to erect a wall on the border with Mexico. Hiring 5,000 Border Patrol agents would represent an increase of about 25 percent, and his plan for 10,000 more U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement officers and agents is an increase of about 50 percent.
Trump’s orders set no deadline and it is unclear if Congress will provide the billions of dollars they would likely require. Trump proposed the target of 5,000 agents during the campaign; CBP officials did not directly address how that number came about Wednesday but said it was achievable.
A CBP official said the agency was committed to a requirement that all applicants take a lie detector test but was looking to waive it for a limited number of job seekers, including certain veterans with at least four years of military experience and some law enforcement officers at other federal agencies.
The officials said about 75 percent of applicants fail the polygraph, roughly two-thirds of them for admissions about criminal history or other matters. That’s more than double the average rate of applicants at eight law enforcement agencies that provided data to The Associated Press under open-records requests. Applicants to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration failed 36 percent in the last two years.
CBP also plans to test an alternative polygraph that may take less time to administer but still meets federal standards and identifies problem candidates, the officials said.
ICE, which is responsible for deportations and immigrant detention centers, does not require that applicants take a lie detector test.
One official challenged a widespread perception that the Border Patrol’s last hiring surge, which doubled the number of agents from 2003 to 2011, resulted in more corruption. The official said there was no evidence to show that agents hired during that time were more corrupt.
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