As Border Patrol Expands, So Do Reports of Misconduct

Agents have been accused of rape, assault, and harassment.

By Julianne Hing Sep 09, 2010

Border Patrol agents stationed across the country and along the nation’s borders are struggling to keep their abuse in check. The Los Angeles Times reports that in recent years Border Patrol officers have been hit with complaints and even occasional federal charges for abusing immigrants along patrols.

The LA Times details just some of the stomach-churning incidents:

In the last 18 months, five Border Patrol agents have been accused or convicted of sex crimes, including one agent who pleaded guilty in January to raping a woman while off duty, and another who is accused of sexually assaulting a migrant while her young children were nearby in a car.

Another agent, Gamalier Reyes Rivera, is jailed in San Diego on $10-million bail, awaiting trial on attempted murder charges in a hatchet attack that paralyzed a man.

In June, Agent Eduardo Moreno pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge for assaulting a migrant in 2006 at a processing center in Nogales, Ariz.

That same month, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed an unarmed 15-year-old Mexican in El Paso after a group of young men threw rocks at the agent, authorities said. A poor-quality cellphone video of the incident shows that the teen was a considerable distance away, on the Mexican side of the border, when he was shot.

Today, Customs and Border Patrol is the largest uniformed federal law enforcement agency in the country. But where the Border Patrol is concerned, it’s not even that smaller is necessarily better; at the rate of CBP’s growth the force is full of fresh, poorly trained recruits. There is little oversight and few to no checks on Border Patrol power. They are tasked with patrolling the border but are accountable to no one except the federal government, which is increasing their ranks at a fast clip. Worse, the people they police, immigrants who are often on their way to getting kicked out of the country or detainees who languish in prisons awaiting the same fate, have small voices and few rights.

According to the LA Times, the DOJ has prosecuted only eight cases of misconduct or abuse against the Border Patrol since 2004. The newspaper maintains that the dehumanization of immigrants’–Border Patrol often refer to immigrants in their custody as "bodies"–is not racially antagonistic, since most Border Patrol agents stationed at the U.S.-Mexico border are themselves Latino. And yet, policing the region seems to be taking a toll on those officers. This summer, the AP reported that Border Patrol officers are committing suicide at higher rates than other law enforcement officers.