ICE Arrests High School Student Hours Before His Senior Prom

First published in: http://crooksandliars.com/2017/06/ice-arrests-high-school-student-hours-his

Just when I thought the Trump Administration couldn’t sink any further, news broke yesterday that 19-year-old Diego Ismael Puma Macancela of Ecuador was arrested by ICE agents just hours before his high school senior prom. The only crime Diego was charged with was being brought to live in Ossining, New York years ago by his mother who had been arrested by ICE the day before. Trump’s ICE Gestapo has once again protected Americans from another “bad hombre” who was guilty of attending high school, dating and hoping to attend his senior prom.

Week after week, reports of noncriminal immigrant arrests are becoming more frequent and normalized. It is now common for ICE agents to suddenly appear in municipal courts to round up noncriminal immigrants. Large cities like San Francisco, Denver, Nashville and Memphis all reported arrests by ICE agents at their court houses. More shockingly though, raids are being conducted in smaller towns like those that occurred on Thursday night in Monterey and Santa Cruz, California.

Now Reuters is reporting that the administration is arresting and deporting immigrants who were given protected status from deportations by the Obama Administration. These immigrants were deemed to be of no threat to the American public and typically came from war torn countries such as El Salvador. Many of these immigrants have children who are U.S. citizens.

Trump previously claimed that noncriminal aliens had nothing to fear from his administration, even going so far as to feign sympathy for those children who were brought here by their parents and were registered under the DACA Program. For these immigrant children, the United States is the only home they’ve ever known. They have never even been to their birth countries. Yet day after day, the Trump Administration is quietly picking them up at their homes, schools and neighborhoods and shipping them back to these unfamiliar countries.

DACA registered immigrants have even more reason to fear ICE since the government has all their information: addresses, schools, churches and relatives. Should they try to move and not report their change of address, they will be violating the law drawing even more attention to themselves.

Of a more curious note is the trend of deportations that involve students who are known immigrant rights activists. Claudia Rueda is but one example of who Trump is targeting and silencing with deportation orders. Rueda has lived in the U.S. since she was 7-years-old and could not register as a DACA immigrant because her family couldn’t afford the nearly $500 fee. This “bad mujer” was studying immigrant rights at Cal State and was an outspoken activist. That was until a month ago when ICE secretly arrested her and detained her more than 130 miles away in San Diego without notifying her family of her whereabouts.

Rueda was released from jail this weekend by immigration judge Annie Garcy who found that her detention without a bond and for such a lengthy time was severe. Trump’s immigration lawyers argued that she should at least have to wear an ankle bracelet monitoring her whereabouts because of her criminal history of protesting in support of immigrant rights. Justice Garcy scoffed at this claim stating, “Really?” and ordered her release.

According to a Salon.com report that analyzed ICE statistics for the 1st quarter of 2017, only 6% of immigrant arrests under Trump have involved those convicted of violent crimes. The administration claims that upwards of 75% of those arrested had criminal convictions, but as the author pointed out, “criminal” can mean many things. The data does not state what crimes these immigrants are convicted of. They could have been convicted of driving without a license or working without a green card; both of which are not afforded to undocumented immigrants. Overall, ICE arrests are up 38% since Trump took office. Over 10,000 of those arrests were of noncriminal aliens.

If noncriminal immigrants and DACA registered aliens have nothing to fear from Trump, why then do they not release these children and young adults? Why are they not focusing on criminal aliens like they promised they would? As I recall during the election, Trump trotted out those who had family members murdered by criminal aliens and promised to arrest those responsible. I’m old enough to remember his claim of criminal immigrants lurking around every corner just waiting to attack helpless American citizens.

Once again, Trump has lied to the American voter.

The Border Patrol Murdered Anastacio. Justice Now Depends on Trump.

First published on: http://crooksandliars.com/2017/05/border-patrol-murder-trump-deliver-justice

Unless you lived in San Diego, California in 2010, you’d be forgiven for not knowing who Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas was. Though his life ended in a Rodney King-ish style of police brutality that usually causes the media to go insane with wall to wall coverage, the national press had little if anything to say about it. Most coverage came two years later in 2012 by Democracy Now and PBS, when videos taken by witnesses were brought forward.

Yet most still to this day have never heard of him. Until now, that is, because the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights agreed on May 10, 2017 to take his case on behalf of his family. They have finally filed a complaint with the Trump Administration, leaving officials with three months to respond.

Anastacio’s Life

Anastacio came to the United States when he was only fifteen years old. He came here like every other immigrant: to find a better life. Eventually, he found work in construction and he married his love, Maria. Together they raised five children; all of them U.S. citizens. Maria would describe her husband as a hard worker and loving partner and father. But the American dream was not always so easy for them. Sometimes, like in most families, money got tight.

So it was that Anastacio found himself stealing groceries one day in order to feed the kids.

Arrested and sent back to Mexico after two weeks, he located his brother and made a plan to come back to his family in America. Without any immigration documents, Anastacio and Pedro would have to jump the southern border fence and outrun the Border Patrol to get back to Maria and their children. He had rent to pay and mouths to feed. A fence, a man made line in the dirt meant very little to him as it would to anyone if wearing his shoes. But Anastacio’s bad luck streak was not done with him yet. The Migra (slang Spanish for Border Patrol) quickly snatched him up and took him to the Chula Vista station in south San Diego for processing and what was intended to be a fast voluntary return back to Mexico on May 28, 2010.

Anastacio’s Death

I wouldn’t be writing this story today if things had gone smoothly for him. According to the Inter-American Commission complaint, Border Patrol Agent Gabriel Ducoing became angry with Anastacio for pouring a bottle of water out into the trash. He pushed Anastacio into a wall and kicked his feet apart as is often done when cops arrest someone. Unbeknownst to the agent, Anastacio had steel pins in his ankle from a surgery, and the kick re-injured it.

His brother, Pedro, stated that Anastacio cried out in pain as Agent Ducoing handcuffed him to a bench. For several hours, Anastacio requested medical assistance for his ankle and demanded an immigration hearing before a judge, but his pleas were ignored. Hours later, Supervisor Ismael Finn ordered Agents Ducoing and Krasielwicz to pay no attention to his pleas for medical attention and a hearing even though being denied a hearing when requested is a clear violation of the law. They were ordered to take him to the San Ysidro border and make him return to Mexico.

Once at the port of entry, the agents uncuffed Anastacio telling him to place his hands on his head as they did so. According to the agents, he instead placed his hands at his waist and in their own words stated he was “moving around too much.” Ducoing and Krasielwicz grabbed Anastacio and a fight ensued. Two other ICE agents from the port of entry ran over to assist. Andre Piligrino and Harinzo Narainesigh pulled their steal batons and repeatedly hit Anastacio in his stomach and diaphragm until the other two agents yelled for them to stop. Apparently, the baton swinging was so out of control, agents were hitting each other.

After handcuffing him again, the agents attempted to put Anastacio back into the truck but Anastacio resisted by putting his feet against the sides. Agents then threw him to the ground and began punching, stomping and kicking him with their boots while his hands were handcuffed behind his back. A crowd began to gather nearby and above the agents on the walkway. They filmed the incident with their phones and cameras. Anastacio’s screams for help can be heard on these videos.

Witnesses testified that fifteen to twenty agents showed up and dragged him behind the vehicle in an effort to hide him from the cameras. They were unaware of the cameras above them that clearly showed agents surrounding Anastacio, kicking and punching and then kneeling on his head and his chest. Agent Jerry Vales can then be seen tasering the victim four times even though he was still handcuffed and laying motionless in the fetal position. Before one taser, Agent Vales can be seen standing over a motionless Anastacio screaming, “Stop resisting!”

Agents were ordered to seize as many cell phones and cameras as they could from witnesses, while others hog-tied Ignacio’s feet to his hands. He went into convulsions and stopped breathing a full two minutes before agents attempted CPR.

“…blunt force injuries of the forehead, right side of face, lips, flank, abdomen, hands and lower legs . . . The abdominal injury which shows underlying soft tissue hemorrhage is consistent with a collapsible baton strike. . . The puncture marks over the right flank and left buttock are believed to be Taser marks.”

Dr. Pietruszka noted there were contusions, abrasions, and bruises on the following areas of Anastasio’s body: the right jaw, the upper jaw, the cheek area, both hands, right wrist, right thigh, extensive hematoma extending into the posterior paravertebral musculature near the left scapula (running along the upper left side of his back), abrasions of both knees and buttocks, contusions and abrasions of the upper and lower lips, the upper gum line, the left anterior chest, the left upper abdomen, the right pelvis, the left inner thigh, the right forearm, and the right anterior tibial region of the leg. Dr. Pietruszka additionally noted that Anastasio sustained five broken ribs.

Both autopsy doctors found the cause of death to be homicide.

Investigation

The report notes that the Border Patrol had control of the crime scene for over twenty-four hours before the San Diego Police Department’s homicide team showed up. By then, the Border Patrol had destroyed many of the video and audio recordings of the incident. Agents had plenty of time to talk to each other about their stories and discuss the case with their union attorneys before being interviewed.

Even two years later with all the new videos coming forward, prosecutors still refused to bring charges. Federal agents are considered to have what is called “sovereign immunity.” In plain English, this means that the federal government must give the family permission to sue them. Maria and her family did eventually settle with the government in a civil case for $1 million.

Criminally though, none of the agents involved has even received disciplinary action for their involvement in Anastacio’s death. In November 6, 2015, the Department of Justice declined to take criminal action even without seeing the existing videos. Their decision appeared to hinge on a small amount of methamphetamine found in Anastacio’s blood at the time of his death. The videos and eyewitness testimony would clearly show that he was not combative with the agents, but the DoJ refused to hear it and closed the case.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The Commission is perhaps the family’s last chance for justice. Established in 1959 and headquartered in Washington D.C., the Commission is a sort of UN for the Americas. And since the U.S. signed the Americas Declaration on the Rights of Man, it is legally bound to give this family their justice. The agreement bans “torture, excessive use of force and discrimination.” All of which apply to Anastacio’s case.

Justice for Anastacio and his family may never come, because the Trump administration does not consider human rights to be a priority. The administration walked out on the United Nations Human Rights Council, and has shown no signs of caring at all about them on any level, much less in the case of an immigrant.

My Experience in the Border Patrol: Sexual Assault, Corruption and Moral Failure

First published in: http://crooksandliars.com/2017/04/confessions-former-border-patrol-agent

I am proud of my accomplishments as a former federal agent with the Border Patrol. Less than 5% of agents are women. That has been a consistent statistic for over twenty years. To say that the Patrol is not fond of women is being kind. To graduate and last six years is even more rare as most women drop out much sooner.

I was a training instructor, a prosecutions agent and a senior patrol agent at San Diego Sector Intelligence my last year. I worked with the San Diego Sheriffs, California Highway Patrol, DEA, FBI and NSA on various projects. I ran the Explorer Program for kids and taught constitutional law. I worked with U.S. Attorneys to prosecute smugglers of humans and drugs. I was the first Border Patrol Agent to march in uniform in gay pride and many, many other accomplishments. I was known as a no-nonsense, hard working agent and earned excellent evaluations every year I served.

But with that pride in serving my country comes a fairly equal amount of shame. Like any other law enforcement agency, the USBP likes to promote the image of honor and integrity. The only problem is that they have none of that. They are instead an agency systemically full of corruption, abuse, hypocrisy, racism and sexism. While it’s true that there are a “few bad apples” in every agency, the USBP is in reality the opposite; there are instead a “few good apples.”

It is an uncomfortable story for me to tell in detail. Perhaps some day I will write a book on my experiences. But for now, I am not ready to do a deep dive into that unease, and will instead give you a glimpse into my past as a female agent.

Naivete

I accepted an offer for employment with the Patrol in June of 1995 even though I had no idea what the job entailed. Being from Alabama, I had no experience in regards to a border or with immigration. But it had been over a year since I’d graduated from Auburn University, and I refused to stay one more day in my parents’ house. I’d gotten used to living and supporting myself in college. Returning to my mentally and physically abusive, drunk mother’s house was not in my plans. I had to get the hell out of there, and I was not interested in law school as I was burned out and felt I had racked up enough debt from my four years. I’d be lying if I said the thought of being a federal agent wasn’t appealing to me. As a gay woman in Alabama during the early 1990’s, the option of moving to the more liberal San Diego, California area sealed the deal for me. I wanted to work and live my life, and the Patrol offered a job. So, I took it. It was as simple as that.

I was hired under the Clinton administration which was the first real hard core push to shut down the border. My class, the 288th, would attend the notorious FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) in Glynco, Georgia. Many of my classmates would succumb to the heat and humidity during our four month training program and be forced to resign. Others dropped out because of injuries or failing grades in Spanish and law. We were told it was standard for at least 30% to fail. Rumors were that no more than two women and one African American ever passed in a class. This appeared to be true by looking at the past class pictures. Come graduation time, my class was no different.

A Culture of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

100% of female Border Patrol agents were sexually harassed during my time as an agent. I never ever met a female agent that was not targeted by the male agents. That was the climate, the culture of the agency. It began on day one of the academy when men and women were separated so that the male instructors could speak to the male trainees freely. A male classmate later told me that they were instructed to be careful with female agents because we would file a complaint against them if they made sexual advances towards us. They were further instructed to always have another male agent present for witness purposes whenever female agents were around. Women were not to be trusted and did not belong. That was the message the instructors conveyed to male trainees.

Women in the patrol were labeled as four types according to the instructor: those that marry other agents, dykes, bitches or “f*ck bags.” The last was a term used by male agents for female agents that they passed around for sexual purposes. It was common for male trainees to seek a new, trusting female trainee, buy her drinks until she was drunk and use her for a “circle blow.” A group of guys would force the female to give them blow job after blow job, then dump her off at her living quarters when they were done. These victims would drop out of training unable to continue from the sexual assault. I never heard of one complaint filed by these women. The shame and fear they felt were enough to silence them. In an effort to protect ourselves and others, such information was passed from class to class. Unfortunately, not every woman heeded the warnings. Living at the academy, I had to maintain a higher level of awareness of my surroundings than I had even at college. Yet, here I was surrounded by men wanting to become law enforcement officers.

I was not given my “bitch” label until close to graduation. On a night like any other, after a few beers at the campus bar, I started to walk to my townhouse that I shared with other women. Michael (not his real name), my classmate, offered to walk me home. Once outside my place, he threw me into the exterior brick wall and forced himself on me. He tore my clothes, bloodied my lip, blackened my eye and bruised my ribs before I could get a kick to his groin. I ran to my room, locked the door, curled up on my bed and cried until morning. The next day I put on my uniform and went to class as if nothing had happened.

We women had been warned that if we complained or filed EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity complaint), we would be fired during the subjective Spanish language evaluation tests. We’d seen it happen to women in classes ahead of us. Victims were ostracized by their classmates until they could take it no longer and left on their own. By now, there was only one other woman left in my class, and we were simply trying to get through. I needed the job, so I took the punishment. I tolerated their blackballing. No instructors or classmates, aside from the other female, asked about my lip or eye. That’s how I knew that they all knew.

Three days later, during physical training, we were in the mat room training in hand to hand combat when the instructors told me to square off against Michael. It’s not that I had any issues fighting men. We always fought men. It wasn’t even that he was 6’4″ and I was 5’5″ or that he had 100 lbs. on me. It was the sniveling and laughing that I heard coming from the instructors. It was the fact that they knew exactly what they were doing; they knew what Michael had done to me. We squared off as he smiled and winked at me. Letting me know he was going to kick my ass again. I never stopped charging or fighting, but just like that night, he threw me into the wall over and over, hitting in the same places he had bruised before.

After class, Michael went into the male locker room and threw his arms high proclaiming, “That f*cking bitch will never say no to me again!” Only one male classmate had the morals to come and tell me. One man in sixty-five.

I went to my training instructors and told them I would fight anyone, but not Michael again. Upon telling them why, they immediately tried to get me to put it in writing. I refused and suggested they document all of my statements because I would file against all of them if this continued. The rest of my time in the academy, I was ostracized by the male agents. When I asked a few who I had mistaken for friends why, they simply stated it was because females could not be trusted. They had taken that first lesson as gospel and remembered it as well.

I was the only female stationed there at the time. Word had been sent from Georgia that I was an EEO filer even though I’d never filed. In retaliation, male agents were instructed to try anything to get me to quit. There were the standard, pathetic sexual harassment antics of porn being left in my station mail box, panties being left in my 4×4 Bronco and evaluations stating I should be fired because my, “…facial impressions give me the impression she does not like me.” Then there were the more dangerous kinds of harassment like not being given a vest for the first year, being left on the top of a mountain in the middle of the night, agents refusing to answer the radio when I called for backup, live rattlesnakes being left in my truck and being forced to lay in the snow for supposed drug smugglers for 15 hours at a time.

Just as I was not a member of my class, I was not welcomed at Campo. Even though I’d passed the same exams and same times on the physical exams, even though I proved myself tougher in the rugged high desert mountains than many of the lazy male agents, I was not invited to our graduation party. It was just as well I supposed since it was tradition for the supervisors to take the men to Tijuana and buy them liquor and prostitutes.

As I continued on, I gained the respect of the few agents who were not corrupt or sexist, but the personal assaults against me by others would continue. They even managed to enlist a female agent in their harassment by telling her I was a better agent and more attractive than her. So she instructed her trainees to not answer me on the radio, and further stated the only reason I was an agent was because I was sleeping with a supervisor. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true or that I was gay. The Patrol ran on rumors.

If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.

Corruption

Talk to any federal law enforcement agent aside from Border Patrol agents, and they will tell you that USBP is by far the most corrupt. This is in part due to the the minimal hiring standards which have become more and more lenient as administrations have tried to increase the numbers. Unlike other agencies, Patrol agents are not required to have a high school degree or even job experience. A valid driver’s license and passing grade on a drug test and criminal background check is it.

That is to say a background check must be started. While on duty, I saw other agents fired because their background checks finally came back as failing only after they had graduated the academy and were assigned to a station. These agents had been on duty and armed without clearing their backgrounds. The Patrol does not administer polygraphs or psychological tests like most other agencies. Many agents are in fact in the Patrol because no other agency would accept them.

There was always someone under investigation during my time there. Common off-duty crimes committed by agents consisted of doing drugs, DUIs and soliciting prostitutes. In Campo, agents could routinely get away with assaulting those they arrested should they choose simply due to the fact that we always worked alone. Campo is the most mountainous station east of San Diego. Away from the Tecate Port of Entry, there are no cameras, no citizens. Nobody is watching. Groups are tracked by their footprints for miles into the countryside before being apprehended. If an assault does occur, it is the agent’s word against the alien. This is not to say that the aliens do not assault the agents. They do. I was assaulted a handful of times. I am also not saying that the majority of agents assault aliens. A minority of them do. Of the ones that do, they are always getting into fights, always having allegations brought against them. Regardless of how many agents assault aliens, there’s no excuse for it to ever happen unless it’s in self defense. Knowing how many male agents assaulted female agents, it would not surprise me to know that they assaulted females in the groups they apprehended. But I cannot attest to ever having seen this.

I knew the agent in the video shown above. Mikey, as I knew him, and I were close. We rode to work often and hung out off duty. He was a kid from Arizona who’d escaped the streets by joining the Border Patrol. Mikey was never a hard-core agent, but he was always there if I called. Seeing him on that tape is confusing for me because although I never thought he’d do such a thing, I am at the same time not surprised. That is the dichotomy of my career in the Patrol: pride and disgust.

Agents were more likely to commit what the Patrol looks at as moral infractions. It was common for my classmates and fellow male agents to make arrangements with women they had arrested to later meet up for a date on the south side of the border. They never saw any moral or ethical issues with this behavior. Even though it was against USBP regulations for them to engage in any crimes regardless of what country they were in, agents routinely went south and hired prostitutes. A supervisor of the horse patrol unit even allowed his brother to use the horse stables, government property, to make a porn film. They were discovered when everyone realized they hadn’t seen the horse patrol guys on duty in a while. But like every other moral infraction, male agents simply got a slap on the wrist and a wink. The fact that managers were behaving in such a way only encouraged the lower ranks to do so.

Why I Left

By the time I thought of leaving, I had developed a fairly hard exterior. I maintained friendships with those agents that had standards and ethics much the same as mine. This is not to say that we were perfect, only that we did not commit crimes like many of the other agents. If a bitch is what I had to be to make them afraid of me, then a bitch I was. Mostly I just kept quiet and did not engage agents that I deemed unworthy of a badge and gun.

Although I was stationed at Sector Headquarters in San Diego as an intelligence agent my last year, my area of responsibility was still East County which included Campo. It took many years to hike all that terrain and learn the area, something I needed to know intimately as an intelligence agent. As an agent at the station level, I’d noticed that the boss of Campo Station, known as a Patrol Agent In Charge or PAIC (who is now deceased), was adamant about how we changed shifts. He would only allow us to drive to the border road by certain dirt roads. There were plenty of rumors about his possible smuggling involvement.

So when I became an intelligence agent, I started to do some digging. That digging got me called back to Campo, placed in a room alone with him and threatened. His words to me were, “I know what you’re doing and I will f*ck you so hard if you keep this up!” He then placed his hands on my chair and whispered, “I got too much involved in this. You think me and the deputy sheriffs working with me won’t take you out? Think again, missy.”

Within days he ordered me on the border to work a midnight shift and placed me in a junior agent position in a scope truck right at the fence. When the shots whizzed past my head, I threw my truck into reverse not caring that the night scope mast was still up. I could not tell where the shots had come from. Returning fire was not an option. Getting the hell out of there was. As I raced north, no one would answer the radio. Within five minutes, the PAIC’s truck pulled up next to mine. This was about 3 a.m. PAICs work standard day shifts with weekends off. For him to show up like that meant he was in the area waiting for this to happen, which meant he’d orchestrated it. I trusted no one from then on. I reported him to my superiors who stated that nothing would happen, and I was to keep my mouth shut. I knew then that I had to leave.

I Felt Like a Nazi

I never enjoyed arresting people that were simply trying to make a better lives for themselves anyhow. I loved getting paid to hike, the autonomy of it, but I hated arresting people who had nothing but the clothes on their backs. People who were just looking for a better life, a job. Because of the mountainous terrain of Campo, I would have to wait hours for transport after finding a group. This was time well spent talking and learning about who these people were. They were farmers, handymen, waiters, maids, cooks and gardeners. They were teachers, psychologists and even lawyers. They were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Very rarely were any of these people criminals. Certainly they treated me much better than many of my fellow agents, and I did not fear them.

I signed on to do a job, and I would not betray that though I never really felt like a member of the Patrol. Perhaps it was to ease my mind, but I made a habit of stopping in Tecate at the Port of Entry before returning anyone to Mexico. If there was a woman with a baby or a child, I bought her whatever she needed: diapers, formula, a sandwich. Before the fence went up, Mexican kids would come north to play soccer in the flat dirt field. I don’t know if other agents did, but when traffic was slow, I played soccer with them. When they swam in the pond on the U.S. side, I made sure to keep an eye on them. When their cows came north of the border, I helped them get them back south. That was how life was on the border before the fence. It was more fluid, and the Patrol was simply a part of the border. The hatred for each other was not like it is today.

Once the fence came up, the casualness ceased. Now north of the fence was an arrest. Campo started to grow as the academies churned out more and more agents as fast as possible. So many that the small trailers could no longer accommodate everyone. I became a senior patrol agent and started trying to move out of the field. Not because I didn’t want to hike, but because I was done with arresting non-criminal immigrants. I’d been in long enough to learn immigration laws and policy through and through. I watched the border become a militarized zone. I watched as families were separated. I listened as women told me how smugglers raped them and how they’d been beaten. I couldn’t be a part of that any more than I could be a part of an immoral, corrupt agency.

Today when I am asked how agents can go on these inhumane immigration raids that Trump is ordering them to do, my response is that the USBP is unfortunately still the most immoral and corrupt agency in the federal system. They will do as they’re told; no questions asked. The attention Trump gives them only bolsters their aggression.

It’s been many years since I left and from what I hear, very little if anything has changed.