06/09/11 – The Acting Inspecting General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Charles K. Edwards, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs this morning that U.S. officials in charge of securing the U.S.-Mexico border are indeed becoming corrupted. Drug cartels, especially the notorious Los Zetas, which are considered to be one of the most threatening and brutal cartels in Mexico, have been actively targeting U.S. border officials as part of their strategy to make their operations, like drug trafficking, run more smoothly. According to Edwards’ testimony, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and DHS agents are most commonly targeted by cartels. Agents are “bribed with cash, granted sexual favors and other services in exchange for allowing contraband or undocumented immigrants to pass through inspection lanes.” Agents have also been accused of “protecting or escorting traffickers and leaking sensitive information in exchange.” Edwards emphasized how this is a matter of national security because allowing criminals to freely enter the U.S. also increases the risk of freely roaming terrorists and destructive arms.
CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin, who was also present at the hearing, stated that the Border Patrol today consists of more than 20,700 agents, more than double its size in 2004. According to CNN, Bersin implied that the rapid hiring spree in the past years may have come at the cost of hiring less qualified agents who may be more vulnerable. Bersin also explained how President Calderón’s war on narco-traffickers combined with the rapid increase of agents who have recently been recruited to the CBP have created “more opportunity and incentive” for criminals to corrupt CBP officials. Since 2004, a total of 127 U.S. agents have been convicted of corruption charges.