On September 9, FBI agents arrested U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Jose Luis Cota on suspicion of allowing aliens to cross into the U.S. through the San Ysidro Port of Entry in exchange for cash bribes and sex. Also arrested were co-conspirators Gilberto Aguilar-Martinez, 31, and Miriam Elizabeth Juarez-Herrera, 31, both previously deported.
During her interview with the FBI and according to the federal complaint, Juarez-Herrera admitted that she paid “large sums of cash” to Cota and performed sexual favors for him. In exchange, Cota allowed aliens, including Juarez-Herrera, to travel unimpeded through his vehicle inspection lane.
If a federal immigration official’s arrest surprises you, it shouldn’t. Between 2005 and 2015, 177 agents have been charged with corruption, including a high-profile case that involved a supervisory officer who also accepted cash.
In 2014, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson created the Customs and Border Protection Integrity Advisory Panel to identify ways to end CBP corruption that included allegations of agents’ mistreatment of aliens. But, according to a 2016 panel review that included input from New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Karen Tandy, little progress has been made.
The panel noted in its summary that corruption within the CBP, “the true levels” of which “are not known,” could easily lead to national security threats: “Currently there is no one who the Secretary of the Homeland can clearly hold accountable for seeing to it that corruption does not take root within CBP and that our national security interests at our nation’s border are not compromised by corrupt CBP personnel.”
In its defense, CBP pointed to data showing that the nearly 180 agency employees arrested, charged or convicted between October 2004 and October 2015 accounted for less than one-half of one percent of its 44,000 law enforcement officers.