Skip to main content

Border Update: Corruption At The Border And DNA Test For Migrants, Elizabeth Warren In San Diego And ‘Joker Film Review’

Cover image for podcast episode

A new SDSU study examines corruption by Customs and Border Protection agents. Meanwhile, the Trump administration plans on moving forward with collecting DNA from migrants in detention, a move civil rights groups call “deeply problematic.” Plus, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a 8,500-strong San Diego crowd Thursday she will tax the wealthy to help the middle class. And, KPBS’ arts and culture reporter says the new “Joker” movie is a poor man’s Scorsese film.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 A lot about our border was revealed this week from the expanded collection of DNA from people in immigration custody to a report on corruption among the ranks of customs and border patrol officers. Joining me now is max Riverland Adler who just spoke with the SDSU professor who led the research on corruption among officers. We'll start with that first. Max, welcome. Hi first is this report give us an overall picture of how widespread corruption is among customs and border protection officers.

Speaker 2: 00:28 So what this study did is it looked at uh, 11 years of reports that had been unearthed by journalists and investigators through FOYA freedom of information act into criminal cases involving border patrol officers and you know, they work for the larger customs and border protections agency. The finding was that, you know, basically these were serious allegations and found findings of corruption, but not necessarily one that is not indicative of a large agency. And specifically law enforcement agencies, which dr Jan [inaudible] who did the study says is, is basically law enforcement agencies because they're so shrouded in mystery, a lot of the time and secrecy that we just don't know the full extent of corruption across many of them. And however, this research focused specifically on a 160 cases that they were able to identify. And that was only done by investigative journalism. So to say that CBP is a corrupt organization isn't necessarily putting it in the larger context of, you know, basically we don't know.

Speaker 2: 01:40 That's how corruption works. The things we don't know about. What type of corruption are we talking about here though? So three fourths of the study, a three fourths of the cases from the study involved human and drug smuggling, the basic nature of this corruption involved officers at the border allowing in drugs or helping to forge documents to allow people who had invalid passports or green cards to enter the country. So it was those types of corruption that the study on earth, uh, of course they were smaller issues involving, you know, uh, like I said, bribery, people exchanging favors for cash. Um, and, and it changed based on how long the agent had been in the agency.

Speaker 1: 02:26 And I was just going to ask you about that. How does it change as officers are with the agency longer?

Speaker 2: 02:31 Right. So what it found was that people who had been on the force for, you know, a month to five years, usually the 10 to the kind of corruption that they tended towards was drug smuggling. Uh, that is more kind of bang for your buck. You're able to wave on an drugs and get a pretty serious payday. It's, it's much easier to carry out and you're able to do it kind of under the watchful eye of your supervisors. The much harder type of corruption to pull off. And one that would mean that you would have to be much more of a senior official involves a human smuggling and getting people into the country who do not have the proper documents to be here. So that would be the person who is either forging kind of the documents themselves or helping those people have age check points. Uh, and that that would mean you would not have a supervisor above you. So you see how the characteristics of corruption change the longer you're on the floor.

Speaker 1: 03:26 I see. Uh, this report comes at a time when the Trump administration is trying to increase the hiring of customs and border protection officers, right?

Speaker 2: 03:33 Yeah, absolutely. And this is something that the doctor Jan six really focused on was that basically not only do you need to do more stricter background checks when you're hiring officers, but you need to continue to look into their conduct, right? Because so much of the corruption that he found happened pretty early on in a career of a border patrol officer. So, um, one thing that would need to be done in his estimation moving forward is his stricter background checks and basically verifying that somebody is still doing their job. On top of that where you're going to have, when you're have such a need for the amount of border patrol officers, you're going to lower your standards, right? Because they're having trouble hiring people. It's a very tough job. It doesn't pay so great. So you're lowering your standards already. You're way behind in the polygraph test that they like to have people take of or their connections to people who work with organized crime on either side of the border. So it's really creating an environment where corruption could thrive.

Speaker 1: 04:34 And you asked the CBP a about how they'd make sure to keep up with the screening and scrutinizing of new and current agents. What was the response?

Speaker 2: 04:43 A spokesperson told us that CBP requires a vigorous screening process for new applicants of which includes an exhaustive background investigation and that that background investigation continues every five years throughout their career. Of course, what the study found is that within that first five years you do have some serious instances of corruption

Speaker 1: 05:03 and I want to switch gears again and talk to you about another border related story. The Trump administration is expanding DNA collection among immigrants. Does this include all immigrant and why is the admin administration looking to expand this policy? So this,

Speaker 2: 05:19 according to a briefing, a background briefing by DHS officials earlier this week with the media, this includes all immigrants who are placed into detention along the Southern border, be this in border patrol custody at a border patrol station or ultimately in immigration detention like we see in OTA Mesa. Um, they are not necessarily being very forthcoming about why they would like to do this. Um, one thing that they really stressed is that they always had this ability under a 2005 law to collect a DNA from, from immigrants. They just didn't because they're not being charged criminally, they're being charged civilly. But what happens when you take somebody's DNA and what they're planning to do is to upload it to the FBI's DNA database. And so basically you're going to have this huge, um, database that's filled with people who have given up their DNA due to some, uh, criminal charges or criminal convictions. And you're also going to take this large, civilly detained population who have not been charged with a crime. I've been speaking to KPBS reporter max Riverland Adler, who we'll have a full story on the SDSU CBP corruption report Monday. Max. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren held a town hall at waterfront park in downtown San Diego last night, KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says the Massachusetts Senator brought her message of big structural change to a crowd of some 8,500 people. [inaudible] Warren comes to San Diego as she's experiencing a notable rise in the national polls and just this week, a poll of California voters founder in first place just barely ahead of former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders in the race for the democratic nomination. She also picked up a San Diego endorsement Thursday.

Speaker 2: 00:38 Today, Elizabeth Warren laid out the best labor worker plan I've ever seen in my entire life because of course she has a plan for that

Speaker 1: 00:48 state assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, who gave Warren's introduction or in started her speech with a familiar story about her childhood when her father suffered a heart attack and her mother was forced to start working outside the home and that minimum wage job saved our house and saved our family. Oren gave a brief history of her life, young mother, special education teacher, law professor. She said she was drawn to the question of why America's middle class is being hollowed out. Her answer, the government is working great for drug companies, but not those just trying to fill a prescription. It works great for oil companies, but not for those who feel the threat of climate change.

Speaker 2: 01:29 And when you see a government that works great for those with big money and isn't working so well for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple, and we need to [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 01:46 call it out for what it is. Rob shut. Warren speech didn't even mention the biggest news in recent weeks. The impeachment inquiry into president Trump. She only spoke about Trump in response to a question an audience member said the president had divided the country and asked how she would bring it back together. She said with her ideas, including a new wealth tax on people who have more than $50 million, not just the majority of Democrats like it, not just the majority of independence like it, but the majority of Republicans like it.

Speaker 2: 02:22 And that's why we are going to win. It's why we're going to make change. And it's how we're going to start bringing this stuff.

Speaker 1: 02:29 He shouldn't back together. After Warren finished, Leon of Carlsbad said he's not ready to commit to voting for the Senator, but he said he's impressed by the specificity of her plans and her experience taking on big corporations and also the ability to kind of connect for bottom to top. I mean she basically, like she said today in her speech, she wanted to be a special ed teacher. She had the opportunity to go beyond that and eventually Rose up to Senate and now he's running for president. So that to me is the American story. Christine Lopez of LA Mesa, a full blown war in supporters. She says she likes how the senators speaks from the heart.

Speaker 3: 03:04 She has this energy that is just really contagious I think. So it was really great to hear her kind of go through her plans and just the way that she told her story and kind of wove her story into that was it was just really, I felt like I was witnessing something special

Speaker 1: 03:23 like she does after every campaign event. Warren took time to pose with anyone who wanted to take a selfie with her. She also answered a few questions from reporters when asked what she would do to address the homelessness and high housing costs that plague San Diego. She answered with one of her campaign slogans. I got to plan for that. So I have a housing plan that would build about 3.2 million new housing units and it would help provide housing for middle class families for working class families. We need a bigger housing supply in America, and we can do that by making a real federal investment. And yes, I have it paid for. We're in, probably won't be the last democratic presidential candidate to make a stop in San Diego with the state's early primary on March 3rd candidates are paying much closer attention to golden state voters than in previous elections. Andrew Bowen KPBS news

Speaker 4: 04:27 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:02 Welcome to another edition of midday movies. Once again, we have KPBS cinema junkie, Beth DACA, Mondo and movie walls is podcast film critic Yazdi Pathar Villa on hand to talk about what's new at the movies. Welcome to you both. Thank you. Thank you. So, uh, this week we have the highly anticipated film Joker's starring Joaquin Phoenix as the title character. This is meant to be a standalone film that explores the origins of the infamous DC villain. Let's begin by listening to a clip from the trailer.

Speaker 2: 00:32 My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. She told me I had a purpose,

Speaker 3: 00:47 laughter and joy to the world.

Speaker 4: 00:58 [inaudible] just the corners. It getting crazier out there.

Speaker 3: 01:07 Joaquin Phoenix steaks on the joker after Cesar Romero on T V and Jack Nicholson and Heath ledger on film. Uh, they tackled the role. So how does he do? Well, it's not quite successful. What King Phoenix as an actor that's really hit or miss for me. There are some films like, um, you are never really here and inherent vice that I thought he was brilliant in, but then there's stuff like I'm still here and her where I really felt he was just so self-consciously acting. So for this film I felt like half the film I was really frustrated with him. And then there was about a mid point where it takes a darker turn and kind of gets more focused and it became more interesting at that point. But it was kind of an unfocused film and performance. What'd you think Yazdi? Um, I think there isn't much with two is performance.

Speaker 3: 02:00 There's a much mischief to this performance, which is kind of what we expect from joker as a character. There's just a lot of suffering with upper case S, you know, and well, what are, we might say he's very, very committed to it. You can give him that. Okay, well that's, that's a silver lining for you. You founded, uh, you know, DC does not have a great track record with their feature film. So how does this one stack up? Well, I have to say that of the recent DC films, this is sort of one of the better ones and I think it's better because it's a little more ambitious and at least makes an effort to create a film that has a personality to it, but it's still like D C still feels like it's struggling to find what it wants to do. It does say that this is a standalone film, but how does it fit into the DC universe in some way, shape, or form?

Speaker 3: 02:56 I mean, if I was the Wayne state, I would be suing for slander because Bruce Wayne's dad comes across as kind of a like Trump and training. He's rich and he doesn't care about, he pretends to care about the poor, but he calls them clowns and he's out of touch. And it's a very strange universe. It creates, because there's nobody that you really care about and not that a film needs to have like a sympathetic character, but like you have to be engaged on some level with something. Right. And this one just feels like it's Mandering around, not quite sure of what it wants to do. Did you get the same sense? Honesty?

Speaker 5: 03:36 I did. I mean I think, uh, the movie does have a personality in that, uh, it's very different from what you might expect from a comic book film, but I completely agree with, uh, but Beth that it's sort of a, you know, a cause which is looking for a point to make, which it doesn't quite,

Speaker 3: 03:56 there was some early concern about the violence in the film. Is that concern warranted? Do you think the film on a certain level is like so close to being a really interesting and somewhat disturbing look at what goes into making these white male mass shooters? It looks too, what can alienate someone like so far that they feel their own death or the death of others doesn't mean anything. And it's like so close to kind of being this really interesting commentary on where we are right now, but it's not willing to go that far and it's not willing to kind of step into that kind of dangerous terrain I think. But, um, there are elements to it that are really intriguing. I mean it, it, it's been compared to taxi driver but taxi driver was Martin Scorsese and he had a very clear kind of point that he was making and how he was looking at the violence and this like there's some, a couple moments of shocking violence but I'm not sure to what effect and you know for me the joke has always been about chaos and he's been this kind of nihilistic character and here you have Joaquin Phoenix's joker.

Speaker 3: 05:06 The chaos he creates is like accidental and he just, he kind of enjoys it but there's no sense this is not your typical DC super-villain. It's like all this stuff kind of happens by accident because he's kind of a pathetic, not too bright guy. And I felt like there should have been more of that nihilistic sense of like I'm doing this on purpose or after it accidentally happens that he somehow understands what that means in order for him to somewhat have been able to make a statement like give his character some direction. This is supposed to be like an origin story. Where does he go from here? I can't see where he goes from here. Yeah. Yesterday. Yeah. I think

Speaker 5: 05:48 in a way the entire film sits at the intersection of mental health and violence. So when you, when you are in that territory, uh, it's very hard for it not to comment on what's going on right now in terms of mass shootings and so forth. And I think if you were to be really uncharitable you could say that the whole movie is a defense of people who do that. And I think that's where it gets into, you know, di gets on dangerous ground and this comes from the team that gave us the hangover, but it is considerably darker. Uh, how well do you think Todd Phillips handled the material and did he find a successful tone?

Speaker 3: 06:25 Yeah, I think that's where the big failing is, is that he doesn't quite know. Does he want to make some of it funny? Does he want to make it shocking? Uh, he has a little bit of all that. And you know, you have Robert Euro playing this talk show host that kind of references to the Jerry Lewis character that was in King of comedy and now to Nero's in that role instead. There's like elements of this that I really like,

Speaker 5: 06:49 but it never comes together for me. Yeah. I might've sounded very negative up to now, but I actually think is pure entertainment. You know, the movie does crackle and zinc and it has a, a sense of energy which drives a towards its inevitable conclusion. But I think that, you know, this, it needs to have a thesis to make. And at the end of the, at the end of the movie, you're not left with anything and it almost seems to leave you with the world on fire and not having said much about this character other than how he came to be who he is. But isn't that the purpose of an origin story though? Yeah. The boat doesn't come until the end of the series.

Speaker 3: 07:30 Right? It's, it's like you need to have some sort of understanding, I think, of the character. So to me, when you get to the end, you don't have the joker of what you remember in like the DC comics or in the Heath ledger film or in the old Batman TV series. Like he doesn't feel like he's any kind of a character that has a future. I don't know. I just didn't know like where this film was going and what they wanted to say

Speaker 5: 08:00 with the character. I think if you're going to go there, if you're going to go in that space of mental illness and violence and so forth, then you need to have a point to make. And I think one good thing which can, which might come out of the movies that it might cause people to have serious discussions about this topic, which the country needs, but as it is, I think the movie just cannot stave off this wreak of irresponsible pro vocation. It's just there to provoke I think, and it doesn't know what it wants to provoke about. Basically y'all have told me that we have may ham and also commercials, you know, dark movie. That's why yes,

Speaker 3: 08:38 you could've been an interesting reflection of our times being this sense of we all feel like there's a sort of chaos going on that there's things we can't control, that there's this like just under the surface, this kind of undercurrent, you know, violence and, and dissatisfaction and rebellion and all like all this that's going on. But I just don't feel like they knew what they wanted to say about it. Like they show it but they're not sure. You know, are the rich people, the villains is this guy a victim that we need to feel sorry for and cheer on whose the badge? I know the good guy. Yeah. And it doesn't even have to be like baggy. Like there's just no sense. And if they want to have just an entire sense of total chaos and nihilism where nothing matters, then they have to commit to that. And I don't think they committed to that dark vision either. Hmm. Interesting. I guess the big question is how do you think audiences will respond to it? I think some of the, you know, people who are fans of the comic may be a little frustrated with some of the direction that they take the character, but I don't think it's opening up against anything else. There's a lot of anticipation at won an award at Venice. So I think it's probably gonna attract a lot of attention.

Speaker 5: 09:59 Yeah, I think it'll do very well. I think in spite of all these hot button issues that it raises, I think, again, as just an action movie or an origin movie, it has a really good sense of energy. It kind of keeps moving from, you know, it, it, it's, it's breathless almost in terms of how it rushes towards its eventual outcomes. So I think, I think the, the pure comic book, uh, lovers will, will get a lot out of it. I, I think it'll do well commercially. Hmm. All right. Switching gears just a little here, since this is a, the month of October, we are also going to ask our critics to pick some films suitable for the Halloween season. So,

Speaker 3: 10:37 Beth, this is your favorite time of year. No question about it. Uh, what do you recommend? Well, you know, there's such a huge ocean of films to choose from. So I decided I had to kind of narrow it in some way, shape or form, but I thought I would recommend a pair of silent films that are available for free on the internet. You can search for these movies, but they're both from 1922 and one is Nosferatu, which is really like the first vampire undead film and max Schreck who plays the character of count oral like is so creepy that you can't believe that he's not a creature of the night and the undead. And then another one that's fascinating is Hacksan, which is a S a a sort of a documentary on witchcraft made by the Swedish and Danish filmmakers, but they use special effects to try and create all this folklore and it's amazing and the effects are really stunning for 1922. So I would recommend those two that you can find anywhere and then add a bit of shameless self promotion. I'm going to be showing Island of lost souls and old pre-code Hollywood horror film with lot and

Speaker 5: 11:54 at digital gym on Sunday. And it's just a beautiful, bizarre, creepy

Speaker 6: 12:05 [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 12:06 Oh, convinced. Here's the thing on this table isn't he'll know it's cries to him. Do you know what it is? What I began with? No, an animal. Well we might as well discuss this bank thing now that you know the thing I wanted to prove how completely she was a woman.

Speaker 5: 12:23 Yeah. Steve, what do you, what do you have? So I'm going all the way on the other side of the time. So I'm going to be picking a few films which were released this year. And uh, two of them that are the top of my list are us and Midsummer. And I think they're both from directors who are interested in making more ambitious, more complicated material. And I think both of these films are very, very ambitious. They're both also very messy. But at the end of the day you feel like you've watched something and they both are, are open to a lot of detection and interpretation. And you'll be talking for hours afters. So definitely recommend those two. There's a family in our driveway,

Speaker 8: 13:09 uh,

Speaker 5: 13:09 who is that [inaudible] and if you want something lighter, I would recommend a double feature of the movies, Gretta and ma, which came out, which kind of have a lot of fun being campy and silly and funny within the horror genre. Interesting. All right. I us as in my, my bucket too. I like the conjuring for going for something more recent and then, uh, from, from my childhood Poltergeist and the Exorcist. Just the first one though, I don't like the followups. I like the psychological thrillers and things that make you think and scared to go to sleep at night. Yeah, that makes a great movie to me. I was raised Catholic. I stayed away from the exercise for like 20 years. That's what made it so [inaudible] just ruined my childhood proper properly yet it was so scary.

Speaker 1: 14:03 All right, well thanks to KPBS cinema junkie, Beth DACA, Mondo and movie Wallace, his podcast or Yazdi pathoglobin. We will all be back next month to talk about new releases and films that we are all thankful for.

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.