Did you hear that Mexico replaced all 700 Customs Inspectors? It did so because the Mexican Customs officers were considered corrupt, allowing undeclared merchandise (including drugs and weapons) to cross into and out of Mexico. The replacement officers are allegedly specially trained to collect the tax revenues that the Mexican Government depends upon, and prevent undeclared merchandise from entering the country (i.e. smuggling). Mexico depends upon collection of revenues by the Mexican Customs authorities much more than we do in the United States with the customs duties and fees collected by our U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. Most importantly, the new Mexican Customs officials are supposed to be specially selected and trained so they will not be susceptible to the same enticements that corrupted the former 700 Mexican Customs officials. Mexican Government officials say not to worry about the new Mexican Customs officials as over 70% of the new Mexican Customs officials are colleged educated, as opposed to just 10% for those who were fired.
Do you believe any of this nonsense? This is not the first time that the Mexican Government has fired huge numbers of its Customs officials. It happened before and it will likely happen again. Mexican Customs officials need better salaries and better working conditions, not college degrees.
In contrast, if an international passenger or importer or exporter attempted to bribe a U.S. Customs officer, the chances are excellent that the U.S. Customs officer would promptly arrest or take other similar serious and immediate action. That is not to say there are not any bad apples within U.S. Customs – there always have been and always will be, just like any other large organization. Just recently, a U.S. Customs officer pled guilty to stealing a laptop computer from an international passenger who landed at the Philadelphia International Airport.
We’re not going to address the operational inefficiencies that exist within CBP in this post, but when it comes to integrity, my opinion is that CBP passes the test with flying colors. CBP identifes its “Core Values” as Vigilance, Service, Integrity. As a former attorney with the United States Customs Service in Miami, I still prefer the former core values of “Honor, Tradition, Service.”
U.S. Customs has long had its own Office of Internal Affairs. Plus, U.S. Customs is an agency within the huge U.S. Department of Homeland Security which has an Office of Inspector General. U.S. Customs enjoys a positive worldwide reputation among Customs Administrations throughout the world. Who knows, maybe it’s because all U.S. Customs officials have at least college, and perhaps masters or doctorate degrees.