News & Politics

Caution Urged in Mass Hiring of New Immigration Enforcement Agents

In this Dec. 21, 2016, photo, James Tomsheck, the former head of Customs and Border Patrol internal affairs, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

James Tomsheck, former head of internal affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is urging President Trump to proceed with caution in hiring the 15,000 Border Patrol officers and ICE officers he has promised to bring on to beef up immigration enforcement.

Tomsheck, who will appear on Sunday’s edition of “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson,” says that there’s no doubt the increase in personnel is needed. But a similar surge in immigration-enforcement hires from 2006-2008 resulted in employing many undesirables, including members of drug cartels and people sent by the cartels to infiltrate CBP.

The problem back then, says Tomsheck, was inadequate vetting procedures.

Following are some excerpts from that interview:

Tomsheck: “I don’t think that there’s any question that there needs to be an increase in staffing to make the border more secure. Whatever type of physical barrier you place at the border, there needs to be a physical presence of persons to apprehend those persons that scale the fence or the wall; whatever barrier separates the two countries. That can only be accomplished with a sufficient number of agents and officers positioned at the border to make those apprehensions.”

Sharyl: “What is the potential downside of doing mass hirings all at once?”

Tomsheck: “I very much hope that those going forward with the initiative look at what we’ve learned when we executed the border patrols search of 2006-2008.”

Sharyl: “How many were hired in that search?”

Tomsheck: “More than 10,000 in that period of time. It was done without many of the security protocols that are in place today.”

Sharyl: “Is it accurate to say that drug dealers and drug cartel members were hired inadvertently?”

Tomsheck: “We certainly believe that to be the case. We do know that in the thousands of polygraph exams that we administered after the background investigation, more than half of those persons that cleared that background investigation failed the polygraph exam and provided detailed admissions as to why it was they failed the exam; included in that study group of more than 1,000 were persons who admitted that they were infiltrators, that they worked for a drug trafficking organization, either on the US side of the border or the Mexican side of the border, who had been directed to infiltrate CBP and compromise what they do there.”

Tomsheck says there were  “shocking” results from polygraphs given to some potential agents and officers back then:

Tomsheck: “What we found in those first 100+ exams was genuinely shocking. We found persons failing the polygraph at a higher rate than other agencies, but not dramatically so. What was dramatically different was the nature of the admissions obtained from those persons who had failed. They had included many persons who were actively involved in smuggling, persons who very frequently used drugs were currently using controlled substances, and included persons involved in significant serious felony crimes.”

Sharyl: “As a man looking at corruption inside the agency, do you assume in retrospect that the agents were hired despite, perhaps, cartel contacts and other corruption issues?”

Tomsheck: “Unfortunately I think it’s a virtual certainty that at least 5% of the workforce that was hired during that period of time are likely persons who have engaged in criminal misconduct, and likely engaged in acts of corruption. And may have done so before the duty with CBP.”

When asked what the Trump administration should do going forward, Tomsheck advised proceeding “very cautiously.” He added: “If there is a reduction in the security protocols to screen and vet applicants, I believe we will give compromise to the agencies future.”

Words of wisdom to be heeded.