The Associated Press recently published an article about their investigation on corruption among law officers on the border. Unlike any discussion about Mexican citizens or migrants involvement in drug trafficking or other crimes (or US citizens of color involved in drug dealing), this article was very sensitive to the officers' vulnerability to bribery. Nonetheless, they exposed that this isn't just a case of rotten apples. I would take it one step further and argue that this is a systemic problem- that law enforcement is by its very nature corrupt.
It is ridiculous that the supposed attempt to fight the drug war is to get more law enforcement involved. It's no wonder that since the Merida Initiative, aka Plan Mexico, there has been more corruption (I discuss this further in Breaking Down the Mexican Drug War).
From On Border, Agents Struggle with Corruption
As Calderon sent thousands of soldiers to northern Mexico to stop the gruesome cartel violence and clean out corrupt police departments, CBP, the largest U.S. law enforcement agency, boosted its border forces by 44 percent or 6,907 additional officers and agents on the southwest border.
At the same time, CBP saw the number of its officers charged with corruption-related crimes nearly triple, from eight cases in fiscal 2007 to 21 the following year...
In the past 10 months, 20 agents from CBP alone have been charged with a corruption-related crime. At that pace, the organization will set a new record for in-house corruption; 90 employees have been charged with corrupt acts since October 2004. Agency officials expect those cases to continue to climb: There are 63 open criminal investigations - including corruption cases - against CBP employees.
I have been casually keeping track of cases such as this for a few years. I have been particularly interested in the fact that migrants are stereotyped as drug smugglers while law enforcement is not. While obviously nearly everyone has vulnerability to this lucrative business.
Human smuggling, is another lucrative business. Most of these non-drug related corruption charges involve providing "legal" paperwork for folks crossing the border- probably those who have money and are therefore probably involved in the drug trade. So who's to blame for drug traffickers entering the US.
An opinion piece from October 2006, Corrupt officials at home hinder real immigration reform lays out a number of examples of border-area law enforcement corruption, particularly drug trafficking, such as this example: "Border Patrol agent David Duque faces up to 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for legal documents. He sold fake passports, birth certificates and Social Security cards. He even received $5,000 to allow a cocaine shipment through the Texas border."
Surely decriminalizing drugs and migration would solve the problem of corruption. And surely poverty and the perceived need for more and more money by those who already have it are to blame as well. People will always have incentive to do wrong within capitalism. The drugs and migration are not necessarily the problem in and of themselves- it's the abuse of the drugs, and especially the violence that pervades these underground markets, that are the problems.
While watching a video on the Mexican drug trade, I wrote down a quote from a woman who was heavily involved in drug trafficking in Mexico: "You'd have to wipe out the government to wipe out drug trafficking." I'm quite certain she was referring to how corrupt the Mexican government is. But clearly government officials, with their power, access, and impunity (mostly), along with everyone assuming they're innocent because they are part of law enforcement, are not immune from participating in that which they claim to counter, whether in the US or not. So maybe we really would have to get rid of the government to get rid of these crimes.
By the way, since Arpaio was involved with the DEA in Mexico, someone should really look into what he might be hiding...