Scores of corruption cases have alarmed officials in the U.S. Homeland Security Department just as it is hiring thousands of border agents to stem the flow of illegal immigration, the Newe York Times reports. The pattern has become familiar: Customs officers wave in vehicles with illegal immigrants, drugs, or other contraband. A Border Patrol agent acts as a scout for smugglers. Trusted officers fall prey to temptation and begin taking bribes.
Increased corruption is linked, in part, to tougher enforcement, driving smugglers to recruit federal employees as accomplices. It has grown so worrisome that job applicants will soon be subject to lie detector tests to ensure that they are not already working for smuggling organizations. There are about 200 open cases pending against law enforcement employees who work the border. In the latest arrests, four employees in Arizona, Texas, and California were charged this month with helping to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country. The Border Patrol is expected to grow to more than 20,000 agents by the end of 2009, more than double from 2001, when the agency began to expand in response to concerns about national security. There has been a large increase in the number of customs officers.