The Border Wall

I don’t feel particularly bad about the fact that Ephraim Cruz lost his job with the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol should not exist at all, and the men and women who decide to join it are, whether they realize it or not, violently inflicting injustices on innocent people every day, as an essential part of their job duties. Cruz seems to me like a basically decent man with an acute conscience, and it will be better for him now that he has to find an honest line of work.

But Jenn’s interview with Cruz at reappropriate is still powerful, and important to read, because of what it tells us about the institutional culture of policing in general, and border policing in particular. It should be no surprise that the Blue Wall stays in place when the uniforms change from blue to green; if anything, it is worse, because abusive border cops can rely on getting away with even more than abusive ordinary cops can. Their usual victims have no formal standing as citizens, often cannot speak English well, have few advocates with high profiles in the media or the legal system, and are about to be forced out of the country, far away from anyone who might do anything about their mistreatment.

Ephraim Cruz, a former patrol agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, tried to do something about Border Patrol agents who abused captured and imprisoned immigrants. Here are some of the things that he saw while he was stationed in Arizona:

Ephraim was also amazed to find cells were frequently filled to two or three times their posted capacity, while neighbouring cells were not being utilized at all. Not only was this a clear violation of fire codes, but Ephraim feared this practice could pose a serious health risk for detainees.

But, most heart-wrenching for Ephraim was the observation that detainees were frequently going twenty to thirty hours at a time without food. In his March 21, 2004 memo, Ephraim recounts how he watched a young ten-year-old boy — whom his mother described as in good health — break out into red bumps after going more than twenty hours without a meal. Later that same day, Ephraim remembers how a young girl went more than thirty hours without food, and complained of feeling faint. These were hardly isolated incidents: Ephraim remembers countless children and pregnant women who went without food for two or three shifts at a time.

According to Border Patrol spokesperson Andy Adame (quoted in archived Tucson Citizen article Border Agent Claims Detainees Mistreated in Douglas, written by Luke Turf, published May 22, 2004), Border Patrol policies state that all detainees should be fed at 6am, noon and 6pm and … crackers and juice are always available for immigrants. However, Ephraim writes in an August 5, 2004 memo (Memo from E. Cruz to R. Bonner, SUBJECT: Ongoing Mistreatment of Illegal Aliens and Processing Issues):

The integrity of those meal times are habitually violated, and crackers and juice are not always available. Furthermore, when crackers and juice are indeed available, it is not readily provided to the detainees… It is station policy that we feed all illegal aliens held beyond six to eight hours. Many illegal aliens easily go two to three times beyond that time frame without one meal.

In that same memo, Ephraim recounts how on July 31, 2004, he approached the control room that 220 meals would be needed that day, only to be told that 70 meals would be ordered. Most likely, Ephraim opined, two-thirds of detainees at the facility went hungry that day. According to Ephraim, the Douglas station also went weeks at a time without replenishing their supply of juice and crackers, and even when such items were in stock, they were not always made available to detainees. In one incident, Ephraim left some juice and crackers near the door of a holding cell only to have a fellow Agent remove the food moments later, muttering to Ephraim that by leaving it within reach of detainees, they might assume the food was for them.

Ephraim further notes that there was a distinct lack of concern for detainees amongst Agents; an almost dehumanization of the UDAs [Undocumented Aliens —R.G.] that helped perpetuate the mistreatment. Ironically, the Agents — who were predominantly Mexican American — looked down on UDAs as if to say that they, as legal Mexican Americans, were better than the Mexican detainees. Many seemed to feel that detainees deserved their mistreatment; Ephraim recalls how in one instance, while denying food to a detainee, one agent remarked that [the illegal aliens] knew they were coming, they should have brought food with them.

The dehumanization extended in one case to abuse reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib scandal (which ironically occurred only a few months after Ephraim began writing his memos). On March 1, 2005, Ephraim wrote a memo that included a recount of an incident he observed(Memo from E. Cruz to M. Nicely, Chief Patrol Agent, Tucson Sector) :

[I] informed FOS Jeffrey Richards and FOS Ignacio Luevano, in the presence of SBPA Robert Marrufo that SBPFA Marrufo directed BPA Jon Gleber to put an undocumented alien in our custody in a stress position. The incident took place about two weeks ago on the north side of the processing floor and to the knowledge of other agents. The stress position consisted of the alien performing the chair which entails leaning against the wall with both legs at a 90 degree angle and both hands straight out. They had the alien remain in that position until he buckled and cried.

Marrufo then suggested that the alien be placed in the forward leaning rest position, a push-up position, to give him some exercise, however I don’t know if Agent Gelber followed through with the suggestion.

— Jenn @ reappropriate (2007-11-05): The Price of Conscience: An Interview with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz

In 2004, Cruz, believing that a man’s conscience is God’s voice, began to write memos and letters to try to make his supervisors, politicians, and the media aware of violations of policies, training, state laws, fire and health codes, and illegal aliens’ civil and human rights within [the Douglas, Arizona] processing facility. Here is what happened:

Ephraim writes in his March 21, 2004 memo (Memo from E. Cruz to supervisors, 2004):

This culture… reflects a disturbing level of complacency and lack of accountability and is coupled with responses… that this is the way things are done.

Ephraim describes this culture of complacency as fostering the sentiment that, management condoned [the mistreatment] and Agents knew that management knew and [were] not correcting it. Therefore, Ephraim says, Agents asked themselves why should I rock the boat?

… Despite his 117 letters, Ephraim received little support from the Senators and Congressmen he contacted. Andy Adame, Border Patrol spokesperson, told the media that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) would conduct a generic investigation of Ephraim’s accusations, but a recent article by the Tucson Weekly reports that this investigation — though supposedly having found Ephraim’s claims to be unsubstantiated — may never have actually taken place.

— Jenn @ reappropriate (2007-11-05): The Price of Conscience: An Interview with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz

After he began speaking out, Cruz found that his employee review scores suddenly plummeted. One supervisor encouraged his co-workers to take care of him for the accusations. Then, in 2005, he was brought up on federal charges for transporting an illegal alien across the border. He and some friends had gone across the border into Agua Prieta after work, and on his way back he gave Maria Terrazas — a waitress who lived in Douglas and who was dating one of his colleagues at the Border Patrol — a ride back across the border to her home in Douglas. Later, in an unrelated criminal investigation against her boyfriend, it turned up that she didn’t have her papers. Cruz, who had no way of knowing this at the time, was brought up on federal charges. Nobody else involved in giving Terrazas the ride was charged. If he had been convicted, Cruz could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in a federal prison for this non-crime. As it turns out, the jury found the prosecution baseless and acquitted him on all charges. But that didn’t stop the retaliation. Last month, he received a letter from the U.S. Border Patrol stating that he would be fired on administrative charges — the same charges that a federal jury had already acquitted him of. He has been forced to resign so that he could avoid having this baseless smear go on his record; he could not afford a lawyer to fight the dismissal in court.

When it comes to cases of corruption or abuse, it’s often said that cops will protect their own. That’s close to the truth, but it misses the mark in one important respect. Cops — and this manifestly includes border cops, too — will try as hard as they can to intimidate, harass, defame, abandon, hurt, fire, imprison, or even kill any of their own who speak out against their colleagues’ crimes.

That isn’t cops protecting their own. It’s cops protecting their power. And they’ll do just about anything to absolutely anybody who endangers it. Ephraim Cruz is the latest of many victims to get the long knife treatment.

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  1. Anonymous

    Ephraim is a fraud. I worked with him and believe you me he was no saint. He just happens to be one of those individuals who hungers for power and control. He was also the one that everybody told you about to be careful of because he would rat you out in a dime just so that he could add up his grievences and later claim that he was working in a hostile work enviroment and all in the hopes that he would be transfered up north to his native state of New York. He says that he was always looking out for the Undocumented Aliens but some agents have been witnesses to his other more malicious side. With that said this guy is just a big cry baby who’s pulling one over on those around him in order to get what he wants.

  2. jane doe

    Although we do not know whether or not Cruz’s claims are true or false, the fact that illegal immigrants are very much susceptible to hostility and mistreatment by border patrol official is present. There is noting in place to help protect their god given rights as human beings. Besides administration that apparently turns the other cheek there is no way of knowing the conditions that these people face since they are deported so quickly and are unable to give any accounts on such mistreatment. The fact of the matter is that a more careful eye must be placed on officials in power and real steps must be taken in order prevent such abuse. This is an issue that needs to be brought to light and action must be taken we are not simply discussing “undocumented aliens” but real people with real families, the majority of which are not criminals and simply come to the U.S in order to help their families back home in Mexico. As human beings we must empathize with their position and ask ourselves, “What if it was me?” . Just because this issue does not directly affect us, does not mean we can ignore what is happening.

· December 2007 ·

  1. RAM

    Just to correct you, they are all criminals. They commited a crime by coming into this by illegally crossing our border, hence the word criminal. That point aside, just because a few are mistreated doesn’t mean we should do away with the border patrol. When there are cases where police have mistreated people, should we do away with police, when prison guards mistreat prisoners, should we let all the prisoners go? Sounds like you have another idiotic argument. If all these people did not cross our border to rip off the american taxpayers and stayed in the country they are from until they can apply for citizenship then there would not be any reason to have a border patrol. People like you that condone it just make the problem worse.

  2. Rad Geek

    RAM,

    Just to correct you, they are all criminals. They commited a crime by coming into this by illegally crossing our border, hence the word criminal.

    The word “criminal” has a couple of different senses: a moral sense and a legal sense.

    In the legal sense, all illegal immigrants are criminals, because they’ve all broken the law. But so what? The interesting question is whether or not they had any obligation to follow the law in the first place. If restrictive immigration laws are unjust—and they certainly are—then the fact that illegal immigrants defy unjust laws is a point in their favor, not a point against them.

    In the moral sense, peaceful immigrants are not criminals at all; if my neighbor was born in another country, that neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket. Immigrants violate nobody’s rights by traveling from one country to another, or by making a home, taking a job, or getting an education, even without getting a permission slip ahead of time from the federal government. And, as jane doe points out, the vast majority of immigrants are not violent criminals; they have broken no just laws, and should not be treated as if they were all robbers, muggers, or some other kind of violent criminal.

    In fact it is the government, not the immigrants, which is acting like a bunch of criminals, in the sense that they are shoving peaceful people around and using violence and intimidation in order to get their way.

    If all these people did not cross our border to rip off the american taxpayers […]

    Oh, please. Illegal immigrants are American taxpayers — all of them pay sales tax, property tax, gas tax, etc. — and they have access to no federal welfare benefits and few state or local benefits. Nor is there any reason why Mexicans ripping off the American taxpayers would be any worse than native-born gringos, or anybody else, ripping off the American taxpayers. This is, at the most, an argument against the welfare state, not an argument for singling out peaceful and productive immigrants for government persecution.

    People like you that condone it just make the problem worse.

    Could you explain what problem you are trying to solve? I can’t speak for jane doe, but, personally, I don’t see peaceful and productive immigrants as a problem.

— 2008 —

  1. RAM

    Rad Geek

    The interesting question is whether or not they had any obligation to follow the law in the first place.

    Of course they have an obligation to follow the law, that’s why it’s there, our current immigration laws didn’t fall out of the sky. These are laws that the citizens of this country put into affect. Since when did we decide when an individual should determine which laws they should follow or not follow? They all think It’s ok to enter this country illegally? How many of they think it’s ok to steal someone’s identity to get a job? How many think it’s ok to steal a car to get to work and drive without car insurance? How many think it’s ok to kill to get that car? Crossing the border is only the beginning of the crime wave. “Estimates are between 25 and 33 percent of our prison population are non-citizens.”

    peaceful immigrants are not criminals at all; if my neighbor was born in another country, that neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket.

    Actually illegal aliens are picking everyone’s pocket. Estimates are approximately $800 per year is the cost to the American taxpayer to support these illegals. In addition to the huge cost to incarcerate the illegal prisoners, there is the cost of the 29 percent of them on welfare, many of them that get paid under the table and pay no income taxes and would normally not qualify for the welfare the American taxpaying citizen is paying for. “Nationally it is estimated that 65 percent of illegals lack health insurance.The large number of illegals without insurance, and the likely impact this creates for taxpayers, again reminds us that the desire of some businesses to have access to large numbers of unskilled immigrant workers may create significant problems for the health care system and taxpayers.”

    And, as “jane doe” points out, the vast majority of immigrants are not violent criminals; they have broken no just laws, and should not be treated as if they were all robbers, muggers, or some other kind of violent criminal.

    Obviously “jane doe” is not a big fan of checking her facts as I have already pointed out the percentage of non-citizens in prison and when compared to the total US population of illegals, it is a very high percentage.

    and they have access to no federal welfare benefits and few state or local benefits.

    I’ve already pointed out the percentage that use the welfare system.

    all of them pay sales tax, property tax, gas tax, etc.

    Please, most of these pay for local expenses, like fixing the the roads that these uninsured motorists are driving on. Really, compare this to all the taxes that citizens pay, it really doesn’t compare.

    “In addition illegal immigration is contributing a poor, uneducated, unskilled workforce. The poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S. born children is 57 percent higher than native citizens and their children. It is estimated that of adult illegals over age 21, 61 percent have not completed high school, 25 percent have only a high school degree.”

    “Unskilled legal immigrants make extensive use of the welfare system.” “Legalization will probably not solve the problems of welfare use or low income associated with illegal immigration.”

    “Legal Status No Guarantee of Success.” ”Immigrants who have legal status, but little education, generally have low incomes and make heavy use of welfare programs.” ”Legalized illegals will still be overwhelmingly uneducated and this fact has enormous implications for their income and welfare use and for American taxpayers.”

    “Immigrants and their young children (under 18) now account for one-fifth of school age population, one-fourth of those in poverty, and nearly one-third of those without health insurance, creating enormous challenges for the nation’s schools, health care system, and physical infrastructure.”

    This information isn’t merely opinion. These are facts obtained by the Census Bureau and U.S. Prison system.

    Go ahead and keep your head buried in the sand, The majority of America knows the truth.

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-04-16 – Professional courtesy:

    […] of things, a pretty small thing. But it’s a small thing that is intimately connected with bigger things—with a pervasive, institutionalized system with consequences that are as terrible as they are […]

  3. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-09-12 – Two cheers for police corruption:

    […] gave out information that messed with the game of the other cops who were coming after his friend. Cops protect their power, and they’ll do just about anything to anybody who endangers that by valuing the safety of a […]

  4. Discussed at orange-road.com

    Ken’s Weblog » Blog Archive » A “good cop” story:

    […] gave out information that messed with the game of the other cops who were coming after his friend. Cops protect their power, and they’ll do just about anything to anybody who endangers that by valuing the safety of a […]

— 2013 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2013-07-26 – Auburn police department contact sports:

    […] as elsewhere, cops protect their power. Support your neighborhood […]

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