The United States has always had a contentious relationship with its neighbor to the south, but a campaign promise our 45th President made to secure the border between the US and Mexico hasn’t helped either. But is the “by any means necessary” approach doing more harm than good? This is the argument posited in The Atlantic‘s short doc Agent for Hire: The Threat of Border Patrol Corruption by Jeremy Raff.
The fifteen-minute documentary looks at the murder of Francisco “Frankie” Palacios Paz, a Honduran immigrant who worked at a local Texas tire shop. His headless body was found floating in the water off South Padre Island, a popular spring break hangout for locals in Texas. Paz ran afoul of the Gulf Cartel, one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. Though the documentary is about Paz’s untimely murder, it’s grander net is how the murder could happen in the first place – and the web of corruption that continues to allow drug trafficking to flow unimpeded. Paz’s murderer Eduardo Luna is the brother of US border officer Joel Luna who, based on one’s interpretation of the case, either took bribes to allow the cartel to move drugs between the US and Mexico, or is simply an unwitting pawn in his brothers’ (and Gulf Cartel’s) scheme.
Raff uses this case to emphasize that, in the wake of Trump’s declaration that over 5,500 border guards will be hired – both to man the existing border checkpoints as well as his wall between the two countries – will only increase corruption. This isn’t the case of “one bad apple,” as James Tomscheck says in the doc, “[but] part of a rate of corruption that exceeded that of any other US federal law enforcement agency,” which includes the Coast Guard, ICE, ATF, DEA, and the FBI.
In the accompanying Atlantic article, Raff provides evidence that when the Border Patrol increased its ranks between 2001-2009 the hiring standards were relaxed, resulting in some agents being hired with no background checks.
Despite increased vigilance in the hiring process, including polygraphs on new candidates, many people are failing to become full-fledged border guards, leading to a dearth of officers. Corruption runs rampant for a wealth of reasons, whether out of pure greed or to help ailing family members, and the problem doesn’t look to have any clear-cut solutions. With increased deportations of immigrants, any chink in the armor of the border patrol is leading to increased cries of “No Walls, No Raids, #Resist.” As one person opines, if the border patrol can’t be trusted, what’s the point?