May 17, 2017

Harris Addresses Reporting Requirements, IG Review in Amendments to Boots on the Border Bill

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WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris introduced several amendments to S.595, "Boots on the Border Act of 2017", a bill before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during a business hearing. Harris' amendments included legislation to implement a one-year pilot program for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner to issue waivers for polygraph tests, to bolster reporting provisions, and to improve transparency by requiring better and more regular data from the Department of Homeland Security about border and enforcement activities related to apprehensions and removals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CBP.

Yesterday, Senator Harris sent a letter to Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan seeking more information on the agency's decision to waive polygraph examinations and in some cases, to replace them.

"This bill would allow the CBP Commissioner to exempt broad categories of individuals from the polygraph requirement without first assessing what impact this would have on workforce integrity, national security or public safety," said Senator Harris. "This administration has proclaimed 'the shackles are off' with regards to CBP and ICE, there has been an increasing number of reports of emboldened officers engaged in unlawful actions and misconduct such as the excessive use of force and illegally turning away asylum seekers. Now is not the time to in any way to loosen hiring standards so that the President and Secretary Kelly can rush to build a deportation force. We must be judicious and measured in our approach."

1) Development of a 1-Year Pilot Program to Waive Pre-Employment Polygraph Requirement and Post IG Review

  • Following the last hiring surge at CBP, Congress mandated polygraph testing for new applicants in response to widespread cases of corruption and misconduct. This amendment authorizes the CBP Commissioner to establish a limited one-year pilot program under which he may waive the pre-employment polygraph requirement for the groups of applicants identified in this bill. Importantly, this pilot program may not start until 90 days after the DHS Inspector General provides a report to the DHS Secretary and appropriate Congressional committees and finds that providing such waiver authority will not undermine workforce integrity, national security or public safety.
  • A one-year pilot program would provide the CBP Commissioner, DHS Secretary, and congressional oversight committees data and assessment from which to judge the effects of expanding the DHS's waiver authority.
  • The DHS Inspector General, rather than the CBP Commissioner, would be required to provide an annual report on the use of the waiver authority. Additionally, the IG would be directed to provide a final report and recommendations of the waiver authority to the DHS Secretary and appropriate Congressional committees. The report recommendations must include an assessment of safety and workforce integrity, national security, and the impact on the hiring process with regards to efficiency and effectiveness.

2) Strengthening Reporting

  • This amendment would require that DHS IG, rather than the Commissioner, be responsible for providing an annual report of the waiver authority provided to the CBP Commissioner. It would also require that a final report be issued following the sunset of the waiver authority that would include an assessment and recommendations from the IG.

3) Reporting Requirements on Apprehensions and Removals

  • This amendment would require the DHS Secretary to provide better and more regular data on the apprehensions and removals of individuals by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This report must include certain enumerated demographic information of individuals apprehended and removed; more information about the criminal convictions of individuals apprehended and removed; and other important oversight data.
  • Any expansion of DHS's hiring authority, including expansion of the waiver authority proposed in S.595, should be conditioned on increased transparency and reporting requirements for DHS's law enforcement operations.

Harris said: "Current DHS reporting, including what they provided in their response to this proposed amendment, lack important oversight information. DHS and CBP's response to this amendment proposed expansion of data reporting refers to aggregate numbers of apprehensions along the southwest and northern borders. These numbers do not even cover all removals, much less answer the central questions of who is being removed and why."