OCTOBER 23, 2006
The key players in the rampant corruption along the U.S.-Mexican border are United States government employees – including veteran Border Patrol agents, police officers and an FBI director–who regularly accept bribes to help smuggle narcotics and illegal immigrants into the country.
In the last two years alone, 200 public employees have been charged with crimes related to smuggling drugs or humans across the U.S.-Mexican border and thousands more are under investigation. The criminals (most have pleaded guilty) include local police officers, county sheriffs, motor vehicle clerks, prison guards, immigration examiners, school district officials and active members of every branch of the U.S. military.
The outrageous details of these criminal public employees, who regularly help offenders on the other side of the border, were obtained in a public records examination conducted by a California newspaper. Court cases, public announcements and various agency records were examined since 2004 so the figures, alarming as they are, include only that short period.
Schemes include high-ranking public employees collaborating with sophisticated Mexican criminal networks and drug lords that can afford hefty payoffs, some topping $1 million. Examples range from the highest-ranking FBI official in El Paso Texas who accepted hefty bribes from a renowned Mexican drug kingpin to a major Arizona sting which led to 71 guilty pleas from National Guard members, state prison guards and even a federal inspector.
Another case features a pair of senior Border Patrol agents in Texas who took $1.5 million in bribes from a Nuevo Laredo drug ring to allow more than 30,000 kilos of marijuana into the country during a two-year period. A separate pair of senior Border Patrol agents in El Centro California took money to release numerous illegal immigrants from detention centers and then falsify reports that they had deported the individuals to Mexico.
Some of the drug networks actually get help from Mexican government officials who get a share of the lucrative profits. In 2005, for instance, U.S. authorities busted the Police Chief of one small Mexican town who had been chauffeured across the Arizona border to smuggle drugs. His driver, an officer on the Sonoyta police force admitted in federal court that he drove his chief to Arizona to bribe Border Patrol agents.
Sloppy hiring practices, inadequate training and weak internal controls are responsible for the rising corruption among border agency employees, according to some critics. The head of the National Border Patrol Council says agents are vulnerable because morale is pathetic, stemming in part from illegal immigrants’ phony allegations against agents that have unfairly ruined careers.
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