Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Border Agents, Lured by the Other Side


Smuggling parrots out of Mexico into US

Really the only thing surprising about this story is that it isn't happening much more often. The temptation to take smugglers' money just to look the other way or play a small role must be huge.

And what's the harm of bringing two-three parrots across the border. It isn't like its people or drugs.

Ah but of course, it often is people or drugs. And in both cases people die. Often many people die.
The smuggler in the public service announcement sat handcuffed in prison garb, full of bravado and shrugging off the danger of bringing illegal immigrants across the border.

“Sometimes they die in the desert, or the cars crash, or they drown,” he said. “But it’s not my fault.”

The smuggler in the commercial, produced by the Mexican government several years ago, was played by an American named Raul Villarreal, who at the time was a United States Border Patrol agent and a spokesman for the agency here.

Now, federal investigators are asking: Was he really acting?

Mr. Villarreal and a brother, Fidel, also a former Border Patrol agent, are suspected of helping to smuggle an untold number of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Brazil across the border. The brothers quit the Border Patrol two years ago and are believed to have fled to Mexico.

The Villarreal investigation is among scores of corruption cases in recent years that have alarmed officials in the Homeland Security Department just as it is hiring thousands of border agents to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

The pattern has become familiar: Customs officers wave in vehicles filled 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. In addition, homeland security officials have reconstituted an internal affairs unit at Customs and Border Protection, one of the largest federal law enforcement agencies, overseeing both border agents and customs officers.

When the Homeland Security Department was created in 2003, the internal affairs unit was dissolved and its functions spread among other agencies. Since the unit was reborn last year, it has grown from five investigators to a projected 200 by the end of the year.

BTW, the person who was bringing in those birds in the picture, without assistance, is really pretty fucking stupid. They really thought they could get away with that? Just asking.

Note: Headline links to source.

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