A disappointing and disturbing article has been published by the New York Times concerning corruption within the Border Patrol. Fortunately, the vast majority of those serving our country in the Border Patrol are honest, hard-working people. But as the Patrol expands rapidly, there seems to be an alarming increase in the number of “bad apples” in the agency. Here are brief excerpts from the artice:
Mr. Villarreal and a brother, Fidel, also a former Border Patrol agent, are suspected of helping to smuggle an untold number of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Brazil across the border. The brothers quit the Border Patrol two years ago and are believed to have fled to Mexico.
The Villarreal investigation is among scores of corruption cases in recent years that have alarmed officials in the Homeland Security Department just as it is hiring thousands of border agents to stem the flow of illegal immigration.
The pattern has become familiar: Customs officers wave in vehicles filled with illegal immigrants, drugs or other contraband. A Border Patrol agent acts as a scout for smugglers. Trusted officers fall prey to temptation and begin taking bribes.
Increased corruption is linked, in part, to tougher enforcement, driving smugglers to recruit federal employees as accomplices. It has grown so worrisome that job applicants will soon be subject to lie detector tests to ensure that they are not already working for smuggling organizations. In addition, homeland security officials have reconstituted an internal affairs unit at Customs and Border Protection, one of the largest federal law enforcement agencies, overseeing both border agents and customs officers.
While the corruption investigations involve a small fraction of the overall security workforce on the border, the numbers are growing. In the 2007 fiscal year, the Homeland Security Department’s main anticorruption arm, the inspector general’s office, had 79 investigations under way in the four states bordering Mexico, compared with 31 in 2003. Officials at other federal law enforcement agencies investigating border corruption also said their caseloads had risen.
The federal government says it carefully screens applicants, but some internal affairs investigators say they have been unable to keep up with the increased workload.
The Border Patrol alone is expected to grow to more than 20,000 agents by the end of 2009, more than double from 2001, when the agency began to expand in response to concerns about national security. There has also been a large increase in the number of customs officers.