Today’s Must Read

May 27, 2008 10:07 a.m.

Looks like the ‘crackdown’ against illegal immigrants crossing over the Mexican border has been a boon for corrupt border guards.

Federal officials say their decision to dissolve the Internal Affairs unit at Customs and Border Protection unit a few years ago was a bad idea (go figure), and now the Department of Homeland Security is reconstituting it. Reborn with a whopping five investigators last year, the unit is projected to grow to 200 by the end of this year.

The New York Times reports this morning that a growing number of border patrol guards are under investigation for taking bribes from smugglers and letting vehicles packed with drugs and people pass into the U.S. unchecked.

There’s a lot of money out there for border agents on the take:

In another recent case, Margarita Crispin, a customs inspector in El Paso, Tex., began helping smugglers just a few months after she was hired in 2003, according to prosecutors. She helped the smugglers for four years before she was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to forfeit up to $5 million.

The number of border patrol agents has almost doubled since 2001, swelling the force to nearly 20,000. But the smugglers are savvy.

The smugglers use any ruse available to lure border workers but seem to favor deploying attractive women as bait. They flirt and charm and beg the officers, often middle-aged men, to “just this once” let an unauthorized relative through. And then another and another.

In recent years, Texas has seen the most corruption investigations, with California a close second.

One law enforcement expert describes “policing the border as ‘potentially one of the most corruptible tasks in law enforcement’ because of the solitary nature of much of the work and the desperation of people seeking to cross.”

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