AUGUST 10, 2009
Corruption among U.S. law enforcement officials who work along the Mexican border is at an all-time high with unprecedented numbers of local, state and federal officers charged or convicted with crimes relating to drug and illegal immigrant smuggling operations.
Local police, elected sheriffs and officers with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the key Homeland Security agency patrolling the border, are collaborating in record numbers with Mexican smugglers who bribe them with cash, gifts and sometimes sexual favors.
This unprecedented corruption along the southern border was made public by a national media outlet that obtained government files through the Freedom of Information Act, interviewed convicted agents and reviewed court records. The probe reveals that the number of officers charged with corruption nearly tripled in one year at the principle agency guarding the U.S.-Mexico border (CBP).
In fact, in the last 10 months alone, 20 CBP agents have been charged with corruption-related crimes, according to the probe. At that rate the agency, which currently has 63 open criminal investigations against officers, will set a new in-house corruption record. This is hardly earth shattering news at the relatively new agency.
Corruption was so rampant last year that the government created an internal web site devoted to recently convicted border agents and the agency began administering lie detector tests to ensure future applicants didn’t already work for Mexican smuggling organizations.
It marked a shameful chapter for CBP, the nation’s largest law enforcement organization, created after the 2001 terrorist attacks to be the unified border agency. The idea was to combine the inspectional and border forces of U.S. Customs, U.S. Immigration, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services and the U.S. Border Patrol to create a powerful force that would effectively protect America’s borders.
Crooked law enforcement officials are rampant at the state, county and local levels as well. In the last few years more than 80 have been convicted for corruption relating to Mexican drug trafficking, immigrant smuggling and other contraband. Some have been caught red handed taking wads of cash and others receiving sexual favors.
Not surprisingly, the state that shares more than half of the nation’s border with Mexico has the largest number of corrupt local law enforcement officials. In the last two years alone, criminal misconduct cases have been opened against more than 1,000 officers in Texas and two sheriffs—in Cameron and Starr counties—pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking charges for helping Mexican cartels that bribed them.
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