A New York-based nonprofit charged this week that Border Patrol used incentive programs to informally encourage arrests made by agents — an allegation U.S. Customs and Border Protection flatly denied.
Families for Freedom, an immigrant rights organization, released a report this week including data from the Rochester, New York Border Patrol substation and the Buffalo, New York Sector. Abraham Paulos, the organization’s executive director, said the group’s intent is to warn residents in other regions of the country that this practice could be taking place. The heavy focus on arrests, the group said, led to the wrongful arrest of hundreds of immigrants with legal status in the country.
Records cited in the report, which was authored in conjunction with the New York University School of Law Immigrants Rights Clinic, showed three different Border Patrol discretionary awards programs. Agents were awarded with either cash, vacation time or gift cards worth up to $100.
None of the programs require documentation as to the criteria on which agents are judged, the report said.
“The lack of objective criteria to guide supervisors in choosing awardees is disturbing in light of the agency’s focus on station and sector‐level arrest rates,” the report said.
The report’s debut, citing information from court depositions and data from documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, comes after a legal battle that began almost four years ago, the group said.
Families for Freedom filed a lawsuit when it requested the release of Border Patrol arrest records the agency said it did not keep, the group said. Court depositions later revealed arrest records were the only numerical data monitored at the station level, the report said.
“It’s unacceptable for a federal agency to lie about these records. This is a rogue agency that is terrorizing and arresting people of color in exchange for cash or a gift card to Home Depot,” Paulos said in a statement. “We have every reason to believe that these injustices are happening to people around the country.”
This week, The Monitor filed several records requests regarding bonus programs, apprehensions and wrongful arrests made in the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector.
A Washington D.C.-based CBP spokeswoman sent a statement in response to questions from The Monitor. CBP did not directly answer a question asking if it denied the court depositions from one agent about the incentives programs. Nor did CBP directly answer whether the incentives programs cited in the FOIA documents were unsanctioned by CBP.
“CBP does not tolerate racial profiling,” the statement said. “Our officers and agents are trained in how to recognize people and situations that present a potential threat or violation of law without regard to race. No such practice of paid incentives and awards for specific human targets or enforcement actions has ever occurred within the Border Patrol, nor will it ever occur within the ranks of any CBP component.”
The Families for Freedom report also cites a summary of the wrongful arrest of a U.S. citizen from Brownsville in March 2009 as he traveled on a bus in the Rochester area. He was later released after his identity was verified with his Social Security number, the report said.
Jacqueline Armendariz covers law enforcement, courts and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at email@example.com and (956) 683-4434.