Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Border corruption hinders border security

The Laredo Morning Times poses a key question about border security ("Border Insecurity," Sept. 27): "How do you secure the homeland if some of those guarding the gates are dishonest?"

AP reporter Pauline Arrillaga noticed the same trend I've been harping on recently. Corruption among border law enforcement has reached epidemic levels, even as funding for border security has skyrocketed:

Consider: On the Texas border, at least 10 officers have been charged or sentenced in corruption schemes over the past year, including four Border Patrol agents — all assigned to the same highway checkpoint — who admitted taking money to let both drugs and migrants pass.

On the California border, at least nine immigration officers have been arrested or sentenced on corruption-related charges in the past 12 months. One of those convicted of smuggling in illegal immigrants turned out to be an illegal immigrant himself, who had used a fake birth certificate to get hired by the Border Patrol.

The numbers are a snapshot, but the picture is clear. There’s no shortage of “sure things” among U.S. immigration workers.

More than 600 criminal probes have been launched this fiscal year of immigration employees nationwide, according to internal affairs investigators at the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Complaints range from smuggling, bribery, extortion and fraud to sexual misconduct, assault and theft of government property. The accused, past and present, manned border crossings, highway checkpoints, airports. Others sat behind desks in places like Orange County, Calif., and Fairfax, Va., charged with taking bribes to provide naturalization papers or work permits to ineligible applicants.

Though the cases involve only a fraction of the overall immigration work force, some question whether the government is doing enough to root out corruption in the ranks.

“After the next attack, when they find out that an employee was bribed by a terrorist or bribed by a spy, it’s going to be too late,” said Michael Maxwell, an ex-police chief who headed internal affairs at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that adjudicates visa, naturalization and asylum applications. “In fact, I think it is too late.”

Some corrupt officers, Arrillaga reports, can make the equivalent of an entire year's salary in a single shift.

That's why I've argued that new border security funds should first go to Internal Affairs units or new specialized teams to investigate police corruption. Otherwise - we're throwing good money after bad. It only takes one corrupt cop to undermine the work of hundreds of others. Giving the same failed agencies more money without fixing THAT problem first won't help much.

RELATED: Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderon says Mexico's governments at all levels are overwhelmed by drug-related violence and corruption.

3 comments:

reportero said...

Why is this not surprising?

A friend once recounted how a Mexican guard once got on his bus at Nuevo Laredo and asked for two dollars per passenger so that the luggage wouldn't be searched. Everyone complied. But the Mexican guard's take is a mere "mordita" when compared to the guys in this report.

As for for drugs, I've always maintained the fastest way to improve public safety in Mexico and the border region and diminish corruption down here would be to legalize drugs.

The stories are both hillarious and calamitous that people tell me about their brushes with Narcotics traffickers. Narcos used to be my neighbors here in Guadalajara. A Canadian classmate, down here for a student exchange, was shot dead outside an upscale nightclub - hit in a driveby, the son of public enemy No. 1 is the main suspect. Mariachi muscians I've interviewed say their business stinks because fewer narcos live in Guadalajara than before (the narcos have moved on to other Mexican cities.)

Where does this all end?

SteveHeath said...

I'm SHOCKED, I tell ya...SHOCKED that Prohibition increases police and government corruption

Steve in Clearwater

Celtictexan said...

--Consider: On the Texas border, at least 10 officers have been charged or sentenced in corruption schemes over the past year, including four Border Patrol agents — all assigned to the same highway checkpoint — who admitted taking money to let both drugs and migrants pass.--

You wouldn't have the ethnicity of these 10 mentioned agents would you?