JULY 11, 2006
The umbrella agency created by the Department of Homeland Security to protect the nation against terrorism has been plagued by serious corruption that includes numerous agents accepting bribes to smuggle drugs and illegal aliens into the country.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was established as the unified border agency by combining the inspectional and border forces of U.S. Customs, U.S. Immigration, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services and the U.S. Border Patrol. The idea was to create a powerful force that would protect America’s borders.
Instead the agency has had a spate of corruption cases involving Border Protection agents and customs inspectors. In the latest incident, two former Border Patrol agents actually pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting bribes for helping smugglers transport illegal immigrants into the U.S.
The veteran agents – Mario Alvarez and Samuel McLaren – worked at the El Centro station in California, just across the border from Mexicali. They admitted taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to smuggle Mexicans into the country, leaving federal prosecutors to say that “it doesn’t get much worse than that.”
Ironically, the agents were assigned to a special program, created between the governments of Mexico and the U.S., in which smugglers are deported to Mexico and prosecuted. Instead, the U.S. agents busted the smugglers, often drove them in government vehicles to a store parking lot and demanded bribes in exchange for freeing them.
Last month four other agents – two from the Border Patrol and two customs inspectors – were caught committing similar fraudulent acts. The two longtime customs inspectors were arrested and charged with bribery, conspiracy and other crimes for smuggling undocumented immigrants into the U.S.
The two veteran Border Patrol agents, brothers Raul and Fidel Villarreal of National City, abruptly resigned and disappeared when a newspaper reported that they were being investigated for smuggling drugs and immigrants into the country in their government vehicles.
If all this seems unbelievable, who can forget a story we reported last year in which a Border Patrol agent named Oscar Ortiz admitted that he helped smuggle 100 illegal immigrants into the country in his government vehicle. The punch line is that Ortiz is himself an illegal immigrant who used a false birth certificate to get his government job. These are the folks protecting our borders.
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