Head of border patrol describes fight to stop drug cartels from funneling drugs to Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (April 5, 2016) – The head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection met with economic and law enforcement leaders in Indianapolis Tuesday.

The visit is part recruitment, part policy discussions for R. Gil Kerlikowske, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to oversee the agency and its 60,000 employees.

Kerlikowske said more than 2,000 positions within U.S. Customs and Border Protection remain open.

In an interview with FOX59, Kerlikowske gave exclusive insight into how border agents are working to dismantle drug cartels, funneling drugs throughout the United States, including Indiana.

“Heroin is certainly an issue that’s getting lots of attention in the United States,” Kerlikowske said.

When 3,000 pounds of marijuana plants were found in Brown County last fall, investigators quickly linked the drugs to a Mexican drug cartel.

Kerlikowske told FOX59 while drug seizures are up along the border, more work is needed.

“So we know we’re doing a better job,” he said. “But if we don’t put it in the context of preventing drug use among young people, getting people who are addicted to drugs into treatment, if we don’t address it as a whole package, we’re making a huge mistake.”

In a critical independent report, sent to Homeland Security officials last month, a task force found corrupt border patrol agents posing a national security threat, finding drug cartels are targeting and recruiting agents to help smuggle drugs and people nationwide, including Indiana.

“It’s a legitimate concern,” Kerlikowske said. “When you think about someone that wants to smuggle drugs and could they attempt to corrupt our agents or our officers at our ports of entry. That’s why our screening and hiring standards are very high. We have a robust now internal affairs office that we did not have in the past to attempt that.”

The task force is recommending Kerlikowske have the authority to immediately fire or suspend agents.

"We just had a great example of an agent in Puerto Rico that was asked to get $12,000 for every person that could enter the country illegally,” he said. “He cooperated with investigators and the people that attempted to bribe him have all been arrested."