House passes bill to allow some border and customs job applicants to skip polygraph test


JUNE 7 – The House voted 282 to 137 Wednesday in favor of a bill that would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to waive a mandatory lie-detector test for applicants from law enforcement or the military, raising alarms that the move will weaken standards at the agency.

Supporters argued that the bill would relieve chronic staffing shortages at CBP, which guards the nation’s ports and borders, and it follows calls from President Trump to beef up border security. But immigrant advocates expressed fear that the measure will lead to corruption and abuse.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on the House floor that the agency is “stretched thin,” with 1,800 vacancies in the Border Patrol and 1,000 in customs, and needs to hire more quickly.

“We must make sure we have an adequate force to protect our borders,” McCaul said. “This should not be a partisan issue.”

The bill would allow the CBP commissioner to waive a polygraph in the case of a full-time state or local law enforcement officer who has passed the test during the prior 10 years, among other requirements. Federal law enforcement and military members or veterans may also skip the test if they have undergone certain background checks or security clearances.

Critics worried that waiving polygraph tests — even for experienced military and law enforcement officers — risks having problem candidates slip through. CBP is still recovering from allegations of corruption and excessive use of force that led Congress to require polygraphs at the agency in 2010.

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