The small number of bribery and corruption cases by employees at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could have a wider ranging impact on border security and immigration enforcement. The department’s 250,000 employees and vast law enforcement activities are about to be turned over to a new DHS Secretary who will have to address the emerging issue of official corruption.
Homeland Security employees caught in bribery and corruptions cases over the past several years represent less than 1 percent of the total number of employees.
“Any amount is bad, and one person alone can do a lot of damage,” John Roth, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, told the New York Times. “It doesn’t have to be widespread.”
President-Elect Donald Trump pledged to increase border security and rigorously enforce existing immigration law throughout his presidential campaign. The findings of the DHS report published by The New York Times could bore holes in the wall he promised to build.
“It does absolutely no good to talk about the building of walls or tougher enforcement if you can’t secure the integrity of the immigration system, when you have fraud and corruption with your own employees,” an internal affairs official at DHS who spoke with the New York Times on the condition of anonymity.
The Times article includes anecdotal stories of isolated bribery and corruption cases that have been filed against employees in Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation and Services Administration (TSA), and other departments of the agency. The article was the result of searches of thousands of court records and internal agency reports over the past 10 years. The article states that 200 DHS employees and contract workers took nearly $15 million in bribes during the period.
In one case, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, Joohoon David Lee, was assigned to investigate a Korean businessman accused of sex trafficking. He reportedly took $13,000 in bribes and other gifts from the target of the investigation to make the “immigration issue go away,” court documents obtained by The Times revealed. Lee’s investigation concluded the “Subject was suspected of human trafficking. No evidence found and victim statement contradicts. Case closed. No further action required.”
Lee eventually pleaded guilty to bribery charges and was sentenced to spend 10 months in prison.
Some national security experts interviewed for the article did not seem surprised by the findings of The Times’ investigation. Fred Burton, chief security officer at Stratfor and former deputy chief of counterterrorism as the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service said, “So it makes sense that cartels would target and try to corrupt border interdiction agents. It’s very similar to the tactics and tradecraft used by foreign intelligence services during the Cold War.”
Others said the corruption might have been inevitable given the impact of increased border security, making smuggling activities of drug cartels and human smugglers more difficult.
The article goes on to cite three examples of bribery charges filed against Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents.
One case cited by The Times was filed against then-Border Patrol Agent Ivhan Herrera-Chiang. Breitbart’s National Security journalist wrote that Herrera-Chiang and a state prison guard formed a “criminal partnership” that led to the agent attempting to have a government informant killed to prevent being discovered. The duo were involved in a scheme to provide sensitive information to Mexican drug traffickers, Breitbart reported in 2014.
In September 2016, Breitbart California reported on a CBP officer being arrested for allegedly receiving sexual favors and cash in an illegal alien smuggling operation. Then-CBP officer Jose Luis Cota was arrested after at least four incidents alleging bribery incidents between November 3, 2015 and September 7, 2016.
In November 2015, Breitbart Texas reported on a former Border Patrol agent who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the cartel beheading of a previously-deported illegal immigrant whose decapitated body was found by fishermen in south Texas. The victim, Juan Francisco “Franklin” Palacios Paz, was tortured and beheaded before being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico. Luna’s brother, Eduardo, had previously been identified as a lieutenant in the Gulf Cartel. Agent Luna is expected to go to trial soon on 15 drug charges and a capital murder charge.
While these isolated cases are troublesome and represent less than 1 percent of the employees of the department responsible for homeland security, a new report from a D.C. legal foundation reported by Breitbart Texas reveals that only about 0.3 percent of CBP employees were involved in activities related to corruption.
The information obtained by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) looked at cases going back to 2005, a comparable period to the investigation by the New York Times. The report suggests that suspicions of systemic criminality at the agency are not supported by data.
The article states:
Commenting on the data, IRLI’s Executive Director and General Counsel Dale Wilcox said, “Just like the War on Cops, the Left has been trying to claim for years that our Border Patrol agents are corrupt, violent, and generally actually lawless. Our FOIA findings, however, severely dent this narrative.”
Wilcox commented further, “Like other critics, however, the open-borders groups that make such public allegations never give actual corruption data, such as the charge and/or conviction rates for CBP-wide employees or comparisons with other federal agencies, et cetera. Now we see why.”
President-Elect Trump appointed retired U.S. Marine Corps General John F. Kennedy to be his Secretary of Homeland Security, replacing Jeh Johnson. Breitbart News published an article in December laying out the general’s background on various issues.
The general, once confirmed by the U.S. Senate, will be responsible for delivering on the promises made by candidate Trump in regards to building the wall, removing criminal aliens, and enforcing existing immigration law. The issue of corruption within the agency will likely be addressed as well.