Since the hiring surge of the 2000s, the largest law enforcement
agency in the country has been battling corruption among the
employees in charge of protecting the nation's borders.
Last week, a former Customs and Border Protection officer was convicted of unlawful importation and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona reported in a news release. Luis Vasquez let pickup trucks loaded with more than 1,200 pounds of marijuana cross the Douglas Port of Entry without inspecting them, prosecutors say. He was arrested in 2011 and was found guilty Thursday. Vasquez will be sentenced April 29 and faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a fine up to $5 million.
While misconduct and corruption cases involve a small percentage of the total workforce, Customs and Border Protection needs to do more to prevent it, recent reports say.
The Government Accountability Office recommends, among other things, that the agency complete post-corruption analysis of every employee convicted and assess the viability of expanding lie- detector tests to current employees.
The Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute, a federally funded research center that analyzes homeland security issues, found the agency "has struggled to streamline its own disciplinary system, to stamp out an internal 'code of silence' that protects corrupt co- workers from exposure or even to fully understand how bad the corruption problem is," says an article from the Center for Investigative Reporting. The center reviewed and wrote about an 80- page report from the institute that has been kept secret for more than a year.
Customs and Border Protection did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
"While the vast majority of Border Patrol agents are doing the best they can given the limited resources they have, Congress has an obligation to conduct thorough oversight to root out corruption and misconduct," Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, wrote in a statement.
Flake and Sen. John McCain, both Republicans, are among the group of eight senators working on immigration reform, a goal that encompasses the topic of securing the border.
144 arrested in 7 years
In the past seven years - from fiscal years 2005 to 2012 - 144 Custom and Border Protection employees have been arrested or indicted on corruption charges, including for smuggling people and drugs, the GAO reported.
About 65 percent of those arrested or indicted were stationed along the Southwest border.
Although they account for less than 1 percent of the agency's entire workforce, Customs and Border Protection officials have said they are concerned about the negative impact it has on agencywide integrity.
"No act of corruption or misconduct within our agency can or will be tolerated," David Aguilar, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said during a congressional committee hearing in August. "CBP's leaders, including myself, are committed to creating and maintaining an organization in which all employees have the strength of character and support to reject all opportunities for corruption and to reveal them when discovered."
That's particularly important to an agency patrolling our nation's borders, said Arizona Rep. Ron Barber, who recently held
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