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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the related problems of corruption at the U.S. border with Mexico, turf wars between Federal investigators of corruption, and inadequate screening for corruption of law enforcement personnel. Solving these problems is crucial to ensuring we have a system that keeps drugs out, guns in, and maintains an effective defense against efforts by drug cartels to infiltrate parts of the Department of Homeland Security tasked with border security.

The Mexican cartels that dominate drug trafficking into the U.S. are sophisticated, ruthless, and well-funded. They operate widely in Mexico through bribery and corruption and smuggle up to $25 billion of illegal drugs as well as people into the U.S. They also smuggle illegal guns and drug money back into Mexico. In 2009, drug violence in Mexico resulted in over 9,600 murders. Already this year there have been over 3,300 murders. Some of the illegal drugs and money goes to and through my State of Arkansas.

The cartels used to operate differently in the U.S. relying mostly on stealth and a U.S. distribution network that reportedly includes operations in an estimated 230 American cities. In my State, the network includes the cities of Little Rock, Fort Smith and Fayetteville. The heightened U.S. border defenses have put a squeeze on cartels. They have tried to regain an advantage by exporting to the U.S. their experience and success in bribing and corrupting government officials who can facilitate their business.

Today, I am introducing legislation and sending a letter with three other
senators to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to reverse what has become a successful campaign by drug cartels to infiltrate U.S. law enforcement. At risk here is more than drug trafficking. National security is also threatened because border weaknesses can be exploited by terrorists to transport operatives and weapons into the U.S.

At a recent hearing I chaired in a subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee, witnesses revealed that while an array of U.S. Government agencies have been targeted for infiltration by the cartels, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, known as CBP, has been shockingly susceptible to the threat. Federal investigators testified that 129 CBP officials have been arrested on corruption charges since 2003. In addition, the DHS Inspector General opened 576 allegations of corruption within CBP in 2009. Now, the vast majority of CBP officers are good, decent, hard-working people. That is why we need to help them root out those that are corrupting the system.

Some of CBP's susceptibility to infiltrate is the result of the high-threat environment in which CBP works. But it is also because the dramatic increases in staff levels since 2003--which is a good thing--means that the agency doesn't always meet its own guidelines for screening of job applicants and existing employees. That is not as good, and we need to take action to make sure that the processes in place to uncover infiltration and corruption are effective.

Established personnel integrity policies call for polygraph examinations and background investigations of all job applicants for CBP law enforcement positions as part of the screening process prior to being offered employment, however less than 15 percent received the full screening in 2009. CBP also has a 10,000 person backlog on these reinvestigations of existing personnel.

There are also indications that there may be coordination and information sharing problems between the DHS components responsible for investigating corruption. Evidence of these problems include a December 16, 2009, memo from the DHS Inspector General's office and a March 30, 2010, Washington Post article detailing a lack of coordination between Federal investigators regarding corruption cases.

As we seem to learn over and over again, cooperation and coordination by Federal, state, and local law enforcement is essential to identifying and defeating threats to our national security. The threat of infiltration by drug cartels is no different.

I am deeply concerned that the department responsible for the security of our homeland is falling short in these important areas.

To address these problems, I am sending a letter along with Senators Feingold, Wyden, and Burris to DHS Secretary Napolitano requesting that she resolve turf issues between investigators and integrity screening shortcomings at CBP. I ask unanimous consent that this letter be inserted in the Record after my statement.

I am also introducing the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010. My bill requires DHS to address the integrity screening problems at CBP and make progress reports to Congress. Specifically, it requires that DHS take such actions as necessary to ensure that the backlog of periodic background investigations is cleared up within 60 days. It also requires job applicants to receive the polygraph test as required by DHS policy within 2 years.

Finally, I close with a message about and to the men and women at Customs and Border Protection. Despite the unfortunate actions of a few that dishonor a proud tradition at CBP, we know the vast majority of CBP employees are patriotic, honest, and hard-working. We know and value the contribution they make to the safety of America and the risks that they take on our behalf. They deserve and have our thanks, support, and commitment to help them weed out bad elements in their organization.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the additional material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD,

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