Jeff Flake - U.S. Senator ~ Arizona

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Flake, McCain, Johnson Introduce Boots on the Border Act

Boosts border manpower by waiving onerous CBP polygraph requirement for veterans, military service members, and law enforcement officers

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) – chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – today introduced the Boots on the Border Act. The legislation would help address hiring shortfalls at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) by waiving onerous and duplicative CBP polygraph hiring requirements for applicants with qualifying law enforcement or military experience.

According to data provided by CBP, hiring delays associated with the agency’s necessarily thorough vetting process have contributed to only about one percent of applicants successfully being hired. Currently, 1,768 Border Patrol agent positions and 1,046 CBP officer positions remain unfilled, in part, due to the agency’s slow hiring rate.  

The Boots on the Border Act is endorsed by the Tucson Local 2544 Border Patrol union.

Specifically, the bill gives CBP the option to waive the current polygraph requirements for the following applicants:

Local or state law enforcement officers who:

  • Have served for at least three years with no break in service
  • Have statutory powers to arrest or apprehend a person in violation of the law
  • Are not currently under investigation or previously found to have engaged in criminal activity or serious misconduct and
  • Have successfully completed a polygraph as a condition of employment with their current law enforcement agency.


Federal law enforcement officers who:

  • Have served for no less than three years with no break in service
  • Have the authority to make arrests, conduct investigations, bear firearms, and serve warrants
  • Are not currently under investigation or previously found to have engaged in criminal activity or serious misconduct and
  • Hold a current/in-scope Tier 4 background investigation or Tier 5 single-scope background investigation as a condition of employment with their current law enforcement agency.


Transitioning members of the Armed Forces, veterans, or members of the Reserves of the National Guard who:

  • Have served at least four years in the Armed Forces
  • Have held a security clearance within the past five years
  • Have undergone a current/in-scope Tier 4 background investigation or Tier 5 single-scope background investigation in the past five years
  • Have received or are eligible to receive an honorable discharge and
  • Have not engaged in criminal activity or serious misconduct under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“At a time when Arizonans are rightfully demanding a secure border, it’s unjustifiable to be turning away qualified applicants with distinguished military and law enforcement service because of a potentially flawed polygraph,” said Flake. “By waiving CBP’s polygraph requirement for these well-vetted and qualified applicants, this commonsense bill will ensure that bureaucratic hiring obstacles don’t hinder CBP’s critical border security and trade facilitation missions.”

“We can’t effectively secure our southern border if we don’t have the manpower to get the job done,” said McCain. “This legislation would address CBP’s chronic staffing shortage by streamlining background tests for qualified veterans, military service members, and law enforcement officers in good standing. We ought to do everything we can to help these brave men and women who are willing to protect our nation, and this bill would remove unnecessary obstacles to serving once again.”

“Securing the border requires an appropriate mix of manpower, technology and infrastructure,” said Johnson. “This bill will help the Border Patrol get the manpower they need by expediting the hiring process for service members and law enforcement officers who have already passed prior background checks.” 

“I am pleased to see commonsense reforms to what has been a troubled approach to the Department’s execution of the polygraph requirements,” said Art Del Cueto, president of the Tucson Local 2544 Border Patrol union. “Measures like this place national security over needless bureaucratic hurdles.”


Background:

  • On Dec. 5, 2016, Flake and U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) introduced the Customs and Border Protection Hiring and Retention (CBP HiRe) Act. The bill was designed to boost manpower at strained ports of entry along the U.S. border by giving CBP new tools to eliminate recruitment and retention obstacles that have left the agency nearly 1,000 CBP officers short of congressionally-mandated staffing levels. Read more about the bill here.
     
  • On Oct. 19, 2015, Flake, McCain, Johnson, and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), had their bill, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act, signed into law. This law will help put veterans to work as CBP officers at understaffed U.S. ports of entry by requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate on efforts to recruit and expedite the hiring of transitioning service members. Read more about the bill here.  

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