U.S. officials often look down their noses at the corruption in the Mexican government, especially with respect to the war on drugs, where drug laws have long enriched the coffers of Mexican officials through bribery, extortion, and blackmail. U.S. officials behave as if somehow they are above such things.
Not so. The beauty of economic regulations, from the standpoint of government officials everywhere, is that they provide government officials a means by which to improve their own position in life.
In the absence of regulations, people go about their normal business of engaging in mutually beneficial transactions with one another. A regulation interferes with their ability to do that.
People then have a choice. They can comply with the regulation and thereby have their wishes frustrated. Or they can come up with a means by which the government official is persuaded to look the other way to avoid enforcement of the regulation.
In Mexico and other Latin American countries, this is done through a process known as a “mordida.” The translation: A bite. Which means the payment of a bribe.
According to a front-page article in the New York Times today, the process is the same in immigration regulations, except for one difference. As a 22-year-old Colombian woman has discovered, sometimes U.S. immigration officials seek not just money, as Latin American officials do in the drug war, but also sex in return for helping the person avoid the effects of the regulation.
The woman, who is legally residing here in the United States, was seeking her green card. This is card that would permit her to work here in the United States. It also permits her to return to Colombia for visits and freely reenter the United States.
In other words, although the woman is living her legally and would like to enter into a mutually beneficial work relationship with an employer, a federal regulation prohibits her from doing so. It also prohibits her from traveling abroad and freely reentering the United States, even though she is already legally residing here.
Obviously this provides a great opportunity for immigration officials. They have the power to give the woman what she wants in return for what they want. In this case, according to the woman the immigration official wanted sex.
When the immigration official summoned the woman for a special meeting regarding her green-card application, the woman says that he forced her to provide oral sex in return for his assurances that her green-card application would receive smooth sailing. Although the official has pled not guilty to the charges, he might have a difficult time defending himself in court given that the woman just happened to turn on the recording device of her cell phone during the meeting.
According to the Times’ article, “Money, not sex, is the more common currency of corruption in immigration, but according to Congressional testimony in 2006 by Michael Maxwell, former director of the agency’s internal investigations, more than 3,000 backlogged complaints of employee misconduct had gone uninvestigated for lack of staff, including 528 involving criminal allegations.”
Unfortunately, the Colombian woman still hasn’t received her green card. More unfortunate is the fact that although she tried to keep the experience secret from her husband, he found out about it anyway and has left her.
According to the Times, the charges against the official “appear to be a part of a larger pattern, according to government records and interviews. Mr. Maxwell, the immigration agency’s former chief investigator, told Congress in 2006 that internal corruption was ‘rampant,’ and that employees faced constant temptations to commit crime.”
But as government officials in both Latin America and the United States have learned, that’s the true benefit of economic regulations, at least from the perspective of government officials. After all, in the absence of the regulation why would anyone have the incentive to pay a bribe to a government official, either in the form of money or sex?