It starts with a $50 bill. Then $5,000, just to look the other way at the port of inspections. Suddenly the formerly-loyal U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer has become yet another link in the chain of corruption, bribery, contraband and violence that plagues the southern border.
And he’s not the only one.
An Associated Press investigation has found that U.S. border officials are being charged with criminal corruption in numbers previously unseen: More than 80 federal, state and local law enforcement officials have been leveled with such charges since 2007.
Meanwhile, both governments are stepping up patrols, according to the AP:
As Calderón sent thousands of soldiers to northern Mexico to stop the gruesome cartel violence and clean out corrupt police departments, Customs and Border Protection — the largest U.S. law-enforcement agency — boosted its border forces by 44 percent, or 6,907 additional officers and agents, on the southwestern border.
At the same time, CBP saw the number of its officers charged with corruption-related crimes nearly triple, from eight cases in fiscal 2007 to 21 the following year.
Corruption runs the gamut, allowing activities such as drug-trafficking, human smuggling, weapons trade and unauthorized entries across the border--committed by high-ranking, established BP officials down to recent agency hires, some of whom are planted by the drug trade. And while bribery (a bargain for smugglers to ensure safe passage) is the leading incentive, drug cartels frequently use another powerful motivator—offering agents a choice between “plata o plomo”--silver or lead.
As continuing border wall construction endangers wildlife and the President requests ramped-up CBP funding, citing Mexico’s long-reputed corrupt officials has been an easy way to dodge the blame. But it finally seems we’re taking a necessary hard look at our own side of the problem.
Graph from the Arizona Daily Star.