SAN DIEGO – Inside sources told Team 10 some Border Patrol agents are a danger to society.
The sources said problems start with recruitment and continue through agents’ training.
“I know a few agents that are a menace to society, but they have a badge and a gun,” said a veteran agent and training instructor who agreed to talk to Team 10 on the condition of anonymity.
“We went from a 20-week course to a 12-week course,” the same source said of the Border Patrol training academy. “They say the standards weren’t lowered, but they were.”
Former President George W. Bush ordered expansion of the Border Patrol following 9/11, citing national security.
From 2004 to 2012, the number of agents almost doubled — from 10,817, to 20,431, according to Government Accountability Reports.
“It took a lot of recruitment,” the confidential source said. “In some cases they’d start recruiting in the local swap meet.”
To accommodate the presidential mandate, the source told Team 10 Spanish language classes and physical training were cut back.
“Pretty much everybody gets through the academy,” the source said.
The source also said the large number of recruited agents meant background checks could be delayed as long as three years.
“They’d been in the system for three years and they finally found out through their background that they had some felonies,” the source said, adding they had personally seen trainees arrested and escorted off the training grounds by sheriff’s deputies.
The Border Patrol would not comment on that allegation.
Former agent Ephraim Cruz quit the Border Patrol after nine years, over what he said was unqualified agents mistreating illegal immigrants. He agreed with the confidential source’s assessment citing a lack of accountability.
“We have a huge problem,” Cruz said. “There is a huge problem with the abuse of their authority within the Border Patrol and it’s being covered up at the very height of our government.”
The Border Patrol, under the Department of Homeland Security, told Team 10 there would be “no interview” when questioned about what sources call relaxed standards for hiring agents.
The agents all go through the Border Patrol academy in Artesia, N.M.
Team 10 traveled to Artesia, but the Border Patrol would not allow a tour of the training facility.
Some members of Congress question the “training and accountability” of the agency.
The group of lawmakers sent a letter calling for an investigation to the Office of the Inspector General in May 2012, after video appeared to show several agents beating and shocking Anastasio Rojas to death at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Read the 10News story: Journalist speaks about video raising questions in man’s death
In the letter, the members of Congress say they are concerned that the Rojas incident may be emblematic of “a larger cultural problem at the Department.” Sixteen congressional members signed the letter, including Bob Filner, who is now San Diego’s mayor. (Filner’s office said he was not available for an interview to discuss the story before publication.)
There have been other claims of excessive force by agents in the San Diego area, including claims against agents Carlos Hinojosa, Justin Tackett and several other agents.
Agent Hinojosa is accused of organizing a raid on the home of two men he had fought with at a Chula Vista taco shop while he was off duty.
Read the 10News story: Abuse of power allegations levied against Border Patrol
Agent Tackett shot and killed a 32-year-old mother of five in Chula Vista in September. He claimed the shooting was in self-defense. That case still is under investigation.
The inspector general report on the agency’s training practices should be available sometime later this year.
The Border Patrol did provide a statement for this Team 10 investigation, and it states:
“For all CBP law enforcement employees a background investigation is conducted to ensure that the candidate is reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character and loyal to the United States, i.e., suitable for employment. As one of the most rigorous and demanding law enforcement training programs in the country, U.S. Border Patrol training has become the envy of the federal law enforcement community. For 55 days, candidates receive instruction in both Border Patrol and federal law enforcement subjects. Specific Border Patrol Courses include: Immigration and Nationality Law, Criminal Law and Statutory Authority, Spanish, Border Patrol Operations, Care and Use of Firearms, Physical Training, Operation of Motor Vehicles, and Anti-Terrorism Training. Border Patrol training was modified slightly to take advantage of competencies that potential agents brought to the agency. For instance, Spanish speakers who could complete a competency examination were not required to remain at the academy for Spanish language training but were allowed instead to join their units. CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission. The overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. CBP law enforcement personnel are trained to use deadly force in circumstances that pose a threat to their lives, the lives of their fellow law enforcement partners and innocent third parties. We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with investigations of alleged misconduct by our personnel, on or off duty. In fact, we have put in place extensive measures to proactively prevent misconduct by employing a rigorous vetting process and conducting thorough background investigations on those we hire.”