The U.S. Treasury and Justice departments are investigating corruption
by U.S. federal officials along the U.S.-Mexico border, according
to a two-part series on National Public Radio's (NPR) "All
Things Considered" segment.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the Customs Service
and the Border Patrol are all under scrutiny. Records from INS and
the Customs Service show both agencies combined open an average
of 53 new corruption cases a year involving drug or alien smuggling
and bribery, the report says.
Officials believe the probe is justified because the culture of
drugs and pay-offs has permeated both sides of the border. Moreover,
the size of the U.S. federal workforce along the border has tripled
since the 1990s to about 15,000 inspectors and agents.
America's war on terrorism adds a national security dimension to
the problem -- a corrupt agent may never know what's in the car
or truck he waves across the border, the report says.
Most of those workers earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year, so it's hard
to resist offers of $10,000 or more for waving a truck or car through
the normal inspection process, the report says.
NPR tells of one El Paso, TX, police official who described the
situation not as bad apples, but "bad barrels." However,
veteran field investigators told NPR they believe the vast majority
of the federal workers are honest, but one bad investigator can
do a lot of harm.
To read or hear NPR's "Corruption at the Gates," part
one and two, go to http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/features/2002/sept/border_corruption/index.html