Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hiring standards under attack: Can anyone be a teacher or border patrol agent?

There is a dangerous attitude loosed upon America. It can be characterized as a free-for-all approach to government. If you can get away with it, it’s yours. We need no regulations that protect the public good. We can look away from incompetence, corruption, and nepotism. Qualifications and certification for public employees are now routinely trashed. Such is the state of our union under control by one political party that prides itself in not governing.

Here are two examples from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) showcasing reduced or eliminated qualifications for hiring public servants - teachers and immigration officers. Following those is a report of the consequences of lacking oversight of a government agency (Customs and Border Protection).

Can anyone teach - even a governor?

Ducey signals signing teacher certification legislation
Gov. Doug Ducey is defending controversial legislation he sought - and is expected to sign -which would allow more people without formal teacher training to lead a public school classroom.

Existing laws already allow people who have expertise in science, technology, engineering or math to teach. SB 1042 would open it up to anyone who has “expertise in a content area or subject matter.”

More significant, it exempts the person from having to take a test of professional proficiency, leaving much of the decision on who is qualified up to local school superintendents rather than the state Department of Education. It is that provision that has upset foes who have said simply being knowledgeable in an academic area does not mean an ability to actually teach.

“We have a teacher shortage in the state of Arizona,” Ducey said. “We’ve got some very high qualified, educated people in our community that have expressed interest in teaching.”

Among the provisions, school superintendents would be able to create what amounts to their own certification process, subject only to an avowal that person “has made satisfactory progress and achievement with students.”

But Ducey sidestepped a question of whether he, as an Arizona State University graduate, is qualified to teach a third grade class.

“This isn’t about me or what I’m qualified to do,” Ducey said. “I want to help bring the best qualified people, more of the best possible people into our classrooms.”

Unfortunately, neither was the 2014 election about Ducey and what he is (not) qualified to do.

Hire border agents without due diligence?

Rush to hire border agents raises concerns about unqualified officers
A Trump administration plan to hire thousands of border and immigration officers has advocates concerned about a possible repeat of the last hiring binge, which they said was followed by an increase in corruption and misconduct cases.

A report Tuesday by the American Immigration Council pointed to the hiring of 8,000 Border Patrol agents from fiscal 2006 to 2009, and what it called a corresponding surge in corruption cases and complaints against officers at the agency from 2007 to 2012.

“Now the Trump administration wants to repeat history by hiring thousands of additional Border Patrol agents, as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, without introducing the reforms and safeguards needed to avoid the abuses and scandals of the past,” the report said.

President Donald Trump proposed hiring 5,000 border patrol agents and 10,000 ICE officers as part of his sweeping series of executive orders on immigration that included his plan for a border wall, among other proposals.

Customs and Border Protection insisted in a statement Tuesday that it will not lower hiring standards in order to hire the number of officers identified by the president. It also rejected the suggestion that border agents hired during the 2006–2009 surge were worse.

Border patrol “opaque and unaccountable”

Is it the case that CBP cannot lower hiring standards if the standards are already at rock bottom? I don’t know the answer to that one, but it looks to me that things at the CBP are not looking good. Here is a report from John Washington at The Nation (h/t Michele Manos), Why We Need a Whistle-Blower in US Customs and Border Protection. The agency, which oversees Border Patrol, is one of the most opaque and unaccountable in our government.

CBP’s budget is larger than the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, and ATF; all told, it employs more than 62,000 agents and operates an entire fleet of planes, helicopters, and drones. The federal government spends more on immigration enforcement than on all other federal law-enforcement agencies combined. In the last 10 years, for both immigration and border enforcement (CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the government has spent approximately $170 billion. According to its own statistics, the Border Patrol interacts with around 27 million people a year, most of whom are US citizens, and yet they are also one of the least transparent federal agencies. As ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall put it, “We don’t know very much about the Border Patrol, except that they are the most lawless, abusive, and unaccountable law enforcement agency in the country—we do know that.”

The agency … routinely refuses to answer FOIA requests (a crucial resource the media has to pressure government agencies to make information available to the public), or redacts documents to the point of illegibility. Last year, the ACLU sent CBP a letter expressing its frustration with the lack of responsiveness to its FOIA requests, writing that “the public is routinely denied access to critical information about CBP activities. Extensive delays, inappropriate denials, and non-responses have resulted in costly and lengthy litigation.” In many cases, ACLU Policy Counsel Chris Rickerd explained, CBP simply doesn’t respond, and information is only obtained when litigation is pursued. He showed me a CBP response to a FOIA request in which entire pages are completely redacted. One page was entirely inked over except for the text of the Fourth Amendment. Los Angeles Times reporter Nigel Duara told me that he needs to throw “prolonged and sustained tantrum[s]” to get basic info from CBP, even for incidents in which agents have used lethal force.

But the problems aren’t only limited to the airing of the truth; the truth itself is sufficiently damning. Agents have abducted and raped border crossers, molested them while in custody, destroyed life-saving water left for migrants, chased migrants off of cliffs, run them over in their vehicles, beaten to death a man in handcuffs, and colluded with Mexican drug-traffickers. They have routinely harassed borderlands residents, intimidated humanitarian aid workers, destroyed protected natural environments, treated asylum seekers like criminals, and denied migrants medical care. They have also psychologically abused migrants, set dogs on migrants, coerced migrants into signing voluntary departure, urinated on migrants’ belongings, separated migrant children from their parents, and detained migrants of all ages in freezing-cold holding cells for days without beds or proper sanitation. [Scriber: Evidence for each of these claims is provided in the form of links in the original article.]

The Nation is now making an open call for CBP whistle-blowers and leakers. We recognize that becoming a whistle-blower is a serious matter, with enormous consequences for the individuals involved—any person wishing to come forward with information of wrongdoing should seriously consider the potential personal ramifications. But we also believe that the public is safer when the country is aware of how the government is operating, and that we are more secure when the people act as a check on government overreach, abuse, and secrecy. When public interest and government policy drastically diverge from each other, when government officials engage in unconscionable acts, and when the system in place is not guiding policy or officials back toward legal or ethical governance, it is the duty of the individual—the person of conscience—to speak out.

Check out the report for information about how to (securely) report CBP abuses.

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