Disciplinary and performance problems plague Border Patrol

A new report by federal watchdogs at the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that more U.S. Border Patrol agents are leaving than can be hired. This should concern President Donald Trump, who in January signed an executive order to hire 5,000 more agents. The hires will likely come in the form of a bill introduced in Congress by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, last month, the Border Security for America Act.

However, Border Patrol agents have significant disciplinary, performance and even corruption problems that should be resolved before hiring more agents.

Border Patrol is the second-largest federal law enforcement agency in the country, with nearly 20,000 agents. They have extraordinary powers to enter property close to the Mexican border without a warrant and run checkpoints within 100 miles of any land or sea border, yet without the oversight that is common in even small-city police departments.

James Tomsheck, the former head of an internal affairs department that oversaw Border Patrol, recently said that it is “conservative to estimate that 5 percent of the [Border Patrol] force” is corrupt. This corruption and misconduct ranges from the brutal to the commonplace. Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares assaulted, kidnapped and raped three illegal immigrants he apprehended while on the job and later committed suicide when the police surrounded his apartment. The youngest of his victims was still bound in his home at the time. Oscar Ortiz was convicted of conspiring to bring at least 100 illegal immigrants into the United States and, oddly enough, being an illegal immigrant himself with a false claim to U.S. citizenship.

These problems exist because Border Patrol isn’t monitored properly. After 9/11, Congress created a new agency called Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inside of the new Department of Homeland Security, which eventually came to house Border Patrol. Congress forgot to transfer Border Patrol’s old internal affairs department and didn’t create a new one. Only in August 2014 did Tomsheck’s internal affairs department finally get the authority to investigate criminal misconduct.


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