ORDER TO BOOST HIRING OF BORDER PATROL AGENTS AND ICE OFFICERS RAISES QUESTIONS OVER SCREENING PROCEDURES

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By Miriam Raftery

March 15, 2017 (San Diego) - President Donald Trump’s executive order requires Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to hire 10,000 officers, including 5,000 Border Patrol agents.  But where to find qualified officers and agents is a challenge for the agency—and some proposed solutions are raising concerns.

Kevin McAleenan, acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner, has written a memo proposing to exempt some law enforcement and former military personnel from  taking lie detector tests, 10 News reports.  Associated Press has reported that about two-thirds of Border Patrol applicants in the past have failed to pass lie detector tests .

Whether that’s because applicants are lying or because of hostile interrogations is debatable, but eliminating lie detector tests would seem to raise the risk of hiring dishonest Border Patrol agents.  

The Border Patrol has also faced allegations of aggressive actions, including paying out a settlement in a lawsuit over death of an unarmed migrant at the San Ysidro border checkpoint recently. 

Hiring more ICE agents to handle mass deportations is also posing problems.  The aggressive hiring pace increases the risk of adding to the ranks of rogue agents who have already been charged with abusing immigrants, the New York Times reports.

Dozens of ICE agents and contract guards responsible for detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants have been arrested over the past 10 years on charges that include beating people, smuggling drugs into detention centers, sexual acts with detainees, and taking bribes to halt some deportations, agency documents and court records reveal, according to the Times report. 

Moreover, this week a federal judge held the Border Patrol in Arizona in contempt of court for violating a court order. The Border Patrol failed to preserve surveillance video for a lawsuit accusing the agency of detaining migrants in inhumane conditions including putting them in filthy, icy cold cells, Associated Press reported.

Some photos released earlier showed detainees huddling together under a single, thin blanket and a woman changing her baby’s diaper on a floor strewn with trash, as well as rusted toilets and a broken water fountain.

It’s important for the public to have trust in the integrity of all law enforcement officers, particularly those charged with handling the most vulnerable people.  But it remains unclear how the Trump administration will be able to dramatically increase hiring of ICE officers and Border Patrol agents without also increasing the risk of abuses to migrants and detainees, given that these agencies are already strained to find qualified applicants and battling a documented record of abuses.