There have been 138 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees arrested since 2004 for engaging in acts of corruption including drug and alien smuggling, in part, due to Mexican drug cartel influence.
During the same period, over 2,000 CBP employees, which include Border Patrol and Customs agents, have been charged for criminal acts other than corruption including off-duty behavior. CBP is a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Thomas Winkowski, acting deputy commissioner for CBP, made these revelations in written testimony provided to the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management on May 17 during a hearing examining ethical standards at DHS.
According to Charles Edwards, the DHS inspector general who testified alongside the CBP deputy commissioner, the influence of Mexican drug cartels has reached into the ranks of CBP and contributed to corruption at the agency.
CBP employs about 60,000 people, of which 40,000 work at the U.S. borders.
“The drug trafficking organizations have turned to recruiting and corrupting DHS employees,” Edwards testified in his prepared remarks.
“The obvious targets of corruption are Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who can facilitate and aid in smuggling; less obvious are those employees who can provide access to sensitive law enforcement and intelligence information, allowing the cartels to track investigative activity or vet their members against law enforcement databases,” he added.
Edwards also said that the cartels’ “brutality” is making his job of investigating corruption difficult.
“Our investigations are complicated by the brutality the cartels use to control their organizations and coerce witnesses; and the sophistication and advanced technologies available to organizations with unlimited money,” he told lawmakers.