The other day we talked about a newly-empowered Customs and Order Protection, taking full advantage of the outskirts of their legal rights, and how they were seemingly taking on the role of vanguard of the Trump administration’s more insidious plans. Today the Times expands on that, talking about how the CBP, and ICE, have more “freedom” to do what they want.
Our speculation is that, as these agencies looked to expand to carry out the brutal immigration policies of the Trump/Bannon/Sessions axis, they would naturally lend themselves to people even more ready to gang up on Mexers and camel jockeys. Both CPB and ICE already have a reputation for attracting more lawless, vigilante types (though that is certainly far from a complete picture of the agents; many of whom are as serious as their serious jobs demand). The fear is that with the license to really bust some heads, these agencies will attract recruits who are frustrated by the lack of head-bashing opportunities their daily lives or other law enforcement jobs provide.
Those fears are not misplaced. A Foreign Policy exclusive today looks at how it seems like the DHS will be lowering standards and easing restrictions when it comes to hiring for the CPB.
Molly O’Toole’s article talks about how the DHS wants to reduce the use of certain background checks, including polygraphs, arguing that they are too burdensome, and recruits coming from other law enforcement agencies shouldn’t have to do redundant tests. (You could also say that polygraphs are stupids.) But there is a reason that CPB has such strict background tests: they are super easy to corrupt.
Or, if not easy, really great targets for smugglers, gangs, and human traffickers to bribe or blackmail. They are targeted with sex and money, so that they look the other way. The nature of their jobs requires more probity, the theory goes.
Yet those tough standards, including a mandatory polygraph, were put into place by Congress in 2010, after Customs and Border Protection suffered acute growing pains during the Bush administration, when CBP doubled in size. Some Border Patrol agents didn’t complete background checks before they deployed to the frontlines, officials reported, and the agency saw an increase in cases of internal corruption, and questions over its use-of-force training following a spate of deadly incidents.
I have no idea if the background checks are really too burdensome. It seems like a good idea, given how quickly the department expanded under President Bush, and how much of a problem that caused (as the FP article details). But maybe, in normal circumstances, it would be ok to make it a little easier to get in.
These aren’t normal circumstances. And while the article doesn’t go into the possibility that underqualified Gestapo-wannabes will flood the ranks of CBP and ICE, I think that’s a major fear. A rapid expansion of the ranks for people looking for exercise racialized and expanded powers with lower background standards seems like it will be, at best, a disaster. At worst, it is exactly what Trump and Bannon and Sessions want. Their own extremely loyal white nationalist force.