Federal law enforcers are investigating a series of bribery and smuggling cases in what they fear is a sign of increased corruption among officers who patrol the Mexican border, reports the Washington Post. Two brothers who worked for the U.S. Border Patrol disappeared in June while under investigation for smuggling drugs and immigrants, and are believed to have fled to Mexico. In the past month, two agents from Customs and Border Protection, which guards border checkpoints, were indicted for taking bribes to allow illegal immigrants to enter the United States. And earlier this month, two Border Patrol agents pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $200,000 in payoffs to release smugglers and illegal immigrants who had been detained.
Authorities say two factors are causing concern that larger problems may develop: The massive buildup of Border Patrol agents in recent years has led to worries that hiring standards have been lowered; and, as smugglers demand higher and higher fees to bring illegal immigrants into the United States, their efforts to bribe those guarding the border have intensified. The investigations come at a time when the United States is focused on the security of its borders. Congress is mulling legislation that would pour billions of additional dollars into securing the border, including the construction of hundreds more miles of barriers. The Border Patrol, which has tripled in size in the past decade, is due to grow 50 percent in the next six years.