In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on security along Texas’ border with Mexico. Along that line, one of President-elect Donald Trump’s signature campaign promises is a wall that stretches the entire length of the border.
But those efforts are undermined by breaches that are invisible to most people: bribes.
A new report by the New York Times shows U.S. border security officials accepted at least $15 million in bribes over the last 10 years. In exchange, agents have allowed cartel members to smuggle drugs and people across the border.
“If you’re a border patrol agent, a lot of these guys just get approached by somebody who’s part of a drug-smuggling operation or a human smuggling operation to just say ‘Hey, I’ll give you a couple a thousand dollars just to look the other way,’” Nixon says. “Sometimes it’s actually they’re participating in the smuggling themselves.”
Nixon says Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, members of the coast guard and TSA agents have also taken bribes, but those who do take bribes are a very small percentage.
Agents aren’t just taking money. People are trading sexual favors, cars, drugs, prescription pills and, in one case, 100 egg rolls for an immigration service officer in exchange for making someone a naturalized citizen. Nixon says in another case, an agent was paid $600,000 to let 700 people into the country.
Some agents have taken bribes to let people in the country, alter documents, smuggle drugs, allow human trafficking and more. One border patrol agent gave confidential information about informants to a drug cartel.
But the Department of Homeland Security is trying to stop this small number of corrupt agents, Nixon says.
“They are trying to handle it on the front end by doing polygraphs and deep background checks of people to make sure that they don’t hire the wrong people,” Nixon says. “Within customs and border protection … they actually have this internal internet called ‘Trust Betrayed’ of pictures and a small write-up of all of these people who have been convicted for various corruption-related crimes as a constant reminder.”
Nixon says agents could be accepting much more than the $15 million in bribes that the New York Times found.
“The $15 million actually was us going through court filings because a lot of times in the press releases that the U.S. attorneys or the Office of the Inspector General put out there was no figure,” he says. “So we would have to go through and try and tease that out of the data.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.