FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesCorruption Cases Involving U.S. Officials Complicate Border Security as Illegal Immigration Skyrockets

As near record high crossings and apprehensions continue, an ongoing spate of corruption involving government officials complicates border security.
June 12, 2019
In the past three months, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported over 100,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants each month. This increase is the highest recorded level since 2007 and as CBP officials recently told Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX-27), “there is no end in sight right now.”

But the crisis at the border is not limited to the overwhelming crossings into the U.S each month.

In 2009, the Associated Press outlined 80 corruption-related convictions against American officials on the federal, state, and local levels in a two year time period.

The president of Mexico at the time, Felipe Calderon, acknowledged “To get drugs into the United States, the one you need to corrupt is the American authority, the American customs, the American police — not the Mexican. And that’s a subject, by the way, which hasn’t been addressed with sincerity.”

The Texan contacted a special agent in the San Antonio FBI Public Affairs Office for data on the corruption of public and criminal justice officials in counties directly adjacent to the US-Mexico border.

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The FBI agent provided publicly available cases from 2015 and 2016, which include an Eagle Pass city manager, a City of Del Rio utility department clerk, two Donna School Board Members, a Maverick County Precinct Commissioner, a Val Verde County Precinct Commissioner, and a former Maverick County Justice of the Peace, to name just a few.

Each of these cases involved some combination of bribery, obstruction, embezzlement, or extortion.

Just this past Friday, a longtime administrator for the border city of La Joya, situated in western Hidalgo County, submitted a resignation letter in the wake of an alleged FBI land deal investigation.

This is the second time in the past four months that the city of La Joya has lost a top administrator over questionable decision-making. 

In January of this year, former Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño was released from prison after serving almost four years behind bars. Treviño accepted campaign donations from Weslaco drug trafficker Tomas Reyes Gonzalez (otherwise known as “El Gallo”) from June 2011 to December 2012.

In 2014, Treviño pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, and though the charge carried up to a 20-year sentence, federal prosecutors recommended a reduction for Treviño’s sentence due to his decision to avoid a trial and admit his crime.

Treviño boasts hefty law enforcement credentials. A former Texas Narcotics Officers Association “supervisor of the year,” Treviño was even appointed as vice chair of a new Southwest Border Task Force in 2009 by then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The former sheriff is also the father of convicted felon Jonathan Treviño, the former ringleader of the notorious “Panama Unit,” a narcotics unit formed in 2010 by then-sheriff Treviño.

The Panama Unit quickly developed a public reputation as an incredibly effective and efficient narcotics force, and proceeded to take advantage of the access they had to the copious amounts of drugs and money they confiscated during their raids.

The group started by stealing small amounts of narcotics, but eventually began trafficking increased quantities. At one point, the group was being watched by the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, and the Texas Rangers; not to mention at least one revenge-seeking gang.

News reached the local community that the group had been indicted on several corruption, distribution, and robbery charges, and the county district attorney proceeded to throw out 75 of their cases.

The unit was renowned for making big drug busts and for doing so frequently.

Jonathan Treviño even bragged at one point, “Five-thousand-pound dope busts? Some narcotics officers will never get that in their careers. So I felt accomplished knowing we got 4,000 pounds off the street – even when we put 1,000 back on it.”

The Hidalgo County Sherriff’s office is only one sheriff removed from Lupe Treviño and has still faced some internal issues.

Examples of these kinds of corruption-related offenses are not exclusive to Hidalgo County.

In Maverick County, Cesar Iracheta, a former Justice of the Peace, and Jose Luis Rosales, a former County Commissioner and Eagle pass ISD teacher, pled guilty to federal charges including kickback, bribery, and bid-rigging in 2015.

In 2016, Jose Ytuarte, a former Texas Department of Public Safety Customer Service Representative in Medina County, was caught accepting cash payments in a calculated move to provide fake drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants. He pled guilty.

And as recently as March, a former Border Patrol agent was sentenced to over nine years in prison for accepting bribes to facilitate illegal drug trafficking.

As the influx of illegal immigrants increases across the southern border, the sheer volume of people and the destructive activities of the various drug cartels isn’t the only thing factoring into the border security crisis.

A seemingly constant spate of corruption from government officials on the U.S. side complicates matters further.

The Texan will continue to investigate what is happening on the border as well as detail the various challenges facing those seeking to curb the crisis.  


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Tony Guajardo

Tony Guajardo is a reporter for The Texan. He has been involved in politics since the fall of 2012 when he served as an intern for the now-retired U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio). He is a native of Fort Worth, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University.