Under the leadership of David Aguilar the Border Patrol made some questionable hires in past years. Aguilar dropped standards, lowered expectations, shortened the Academy, told us we weren’t “immigration officers”, said our job wasn’t to arrest illegal aliens and was widely considered a one man wrecking crew for Border Patrol morale. He could write a book on bad hiring practices. This is no reflection on the good men and women hired when Aguilar was running things. We all come in under the conditions that are present when we’re hired. Nothing any of us can do about it.
Several years ago it was decided that CBP would implement polygraph testing to weed out bad apples such as those that Aguilar let slip in. But what has really happened?
Polygraphs are junk science. They are ripe for abuse by overzealous people who administer them with a certain agenda and only have to say, “I don’t believe you.” or “I don’t think you’re telling me everything.” to terminate a new hire. No avenue of appeal, no new background investigation, no follow up at all…just an “opinion” by a person who has been made judge, jury and executioner. We have heard failure rates for Border Patrol hires of 70% to 80% and possibly higher failure rates among applicants that reside on the southwest border as compared to the rest of the country. The poly-con administration is of course a super secret organization and we’re not sure who they report to. On the surface you may think that those who fail the polygraph are all bad people who should never wear a Border Patrol uniform and cannot be trusted. But we have been hearing one story after another for years about poly-con testing that are extremely troubling and raises several questions about its legitimacy.
In government there is a longstanding abuse called “kingdom building”. That takes place when a new program or idea comes around and certain government employees decide they need to show how valuable said program is, no matter how worthless the program may really be. There is often a self-interest involved with the employee because they don’t want to do the job they were hired for or they just want to show how valuable their new program is to keep a job that is virtually worthless. In the business world none of these people and programs would survive because they produce nothing of real value. But in government, real results often take a back seat to other considerations. This is just a fact. CBP has never in its history used poly-con testing for new hires until recently. So what is the goal? Is it to truly weed out bad people or is it to build a kingdom by showing how effective and wonderful the poly-con program is? We would argue it’s the latter, hands down.
For example, a military intel officer with two tours in the middle east working at finding terrorist and terrorist cells is repeatedly asked about his “association with known terrorists”. Well, his job in the military, was to gather information on terrorists and distribute that information. But wait, the poly-con person keeps saying that he doesn’t believe this military veteran, who is telling him everything. The military veteran has a spotless military record and has already passed every other test to get into the Border Patrol, including a background investigation. After grilling this military vet for hours the poly-con person dismisses him because he thinks this former Military Officer is being dishonest and sees to it that his employment offer is terminated. All this based on junk science with no right of appeal and absolutely no way for this decorated military veteran to set the record straight and the Border Patrol loses a potential great employee.
We have heard about applicants being detained by the poly-con man for 8 or 9 hours straight as they hammer away at a petty issue. And we say “petty issues”, we aren’t talking about rape, murder, burglary or other serious issues, we’re talking about whether the applicant drank to excess a few times when they were a teenager and other similar things. And worse, the applicant may very well be telling the truth, but the poly-con person is a master of confusing the issue, making the applicant think they know something they don’t and generally fostering seeds of doubt in the applicant’s mind. For example, applicants know that background investigators have already talked to their friends, family and acquaintances prior to the poly-con test. What did those people say? Did one of them try to throw a monkey wrench in the hiring because of a past grudge? This is how it works. We have also heard of polygraph examiners telling potential hires that they cannot wait till they can start giving polygraphs to current Border Patrol Agents, “because they all have something to hide”. A perfectly honest person can easily fail a polygraph test and a mass murderer can pass a polygraph test. They are junk science and are inadmissible in court for a reason.
We have received one email and phone call after another from frustrated agents who have been privy to this abuse by the poly-con folks. Further, we know of some applicants whose applications were terminated by CBP polygraph administrators and then went on to pass a polygraph test from another law enforcement agency that resulted in their hiring. How does this happen? How can a person fail a Border Patrol polygraph and then pass another law enforcement agency’s polygraph? Who is reviewing the work of the polygraph examiners working for CBP and how are they held accountable? We submit that they are not held accountable. As previously mentioned, they are judge, jury and executioner when it comes a Border Patrol applicant’s hiring process. They are given the power to stop careers based on a whim, a personal dislike or any other “reason”. We have also heard from many who believe the poly-con program is being used by the Obama Administration to slow the hiring of Border Patrol agents. That’s right, we have reason to believe that the current administration is encouraging the failure of polygraphs to further their immigration agenda. We are well aware that the administration does not truly want to fully staff the Border Patrol and give us the Agents we need to do the job. This “junk science” is only one way they use to stop the hiring of potentially great employees.
In closing, we know for a fact that many accomplished veteran Border Patrol agents would have NEVER been hired had they been subjected to the current polygraph examinations. Not because they are bad people or that they were criminals before they applied to become Border Patrol agents, but because the poly-con kingdom has a track record of simply failing the majority of the applicants they interview based on their “opinion”. They are given a license to legally discriminate against anyone they don’t like and it’s shameful. This program has been abused and misused and it still continues to this day.
We have absolutely no issue with terminating an applicant who admits to lying on his or her application or background questionnaire, someone who has serious issue that wasn’t disclosed or someone with a criminal past. None of us want to work with someone like that. But we do have a serious problem with the failure rates based on an unproven opinion of a person with dubious personal objectives. And we haven’t even discussed the tremendous amount of resources that have already been invested in these applicants with the testing, oral boards, medical evaluations and background investigations that turned up nothing to keep them from being hired.
And we leave you with this; the government will not allow private business to use polygraph testing in their hiring practices. Why? Because they know it’s junk science. They know it can be used to discriminate and get rid of anyone for any reason regardless of their qualifications. And we’re not necessarily talking about racial discrimination, reverse discrimination or any discrimination outside whatever is in the mind of the poly-con examiner at the time they administer the test. Do some managers red flag certain applicants for failure? Or does the polygraph examiner not like the way you comb your hair or the way your shoes look. But the real question is, why then does the same government that forbids the use of poly-con testing for private employers use the same junk science to discriminate and stop careers? How many tremendous young men and women have we failed to hire because of an agenda? And why don’t the same Congressmen and Congresswomen who thought this was such a great idea subject themselves to such testing before they can take office? If it’s so valuable, certainly they should use it as well to weed out bad politicians who are privy to all kinds of classified government information.
Fortunately, one potential new-hire, gave a us copy of their complaint about their polygraph examiner. This one person, was so offended by how they were treated and what was said, they decided to act and file a complaint. We will see if CBP will take their complaint seriously or dismiss it like so many others. We will discuss their complaint in another posting.