Investigation: Misconduct by U.S. border officials

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. border officials released immigrants by mistake, sexually abused foreigners, tried to order prostitutes on government Blackberrys and defecated in hotel hallways on overseas trips

  • Investigation found 497 officers were accused of misconduct between 2013 and 2015 including abuse of detainees, falling asleep and being drunk on the job
  • An agent was suspended for trying to use his government-issued Blackberry to solicit a prostitute in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Two guards were reprimanded after they were discovered  in a sexual relationship with another guard at an outpost in Kingston, Jamaica
  • An ICE employee was suspended for defecating in a hotel hallway during an official trip to Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago
  • Only 12 of the guards investigated were fired for their misconduct, 121 were suspended – some for just 24 hours – and 83 were given counselling
  • A watchdog group said the findings were ‘disturbing’ and have urged the Trump administration to do a better job of vetting employees  

U.S. immigration enforcement agents and detention center guards have released detainees by mistake, sexually harassed immigrants in custody, defecated on hotel floors during foreign trips and tried to order prostitutes with their government cell phones, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal.

An investigation has found 497 officers working for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the Homeland Security agency responsible for detaining and deporting illegal immigrants – were accused of misconduct in just two years.

Officers allegedly abused detainees, left their weapons inside prison toilets, fell asleep on the job and deported immigrants without permission, or by accident.

Other agents were caught watching porn on their taxpayer-funded cell phones, while another was found to be in an illicit relationship with a detainee.

A watchdog group said the allegations are ‘disturbing’ and has urged  Trump and his Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to do a better job at vetting future employees.

During three of the debates he said ICE had given him their backing but he had actually been given support from the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council – a union representing 5,000 federal immigration officers and law enforcement support staff who look after 34,000 immigrants awaiting deportation in 180 facilities across the country.

The shocking document, obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, lists all the disciplinary cases, but it does not identify the employees or go into further detail about punishments.

That means some of those found guilty of serious misconduct could still be working at the agency.

A watchdog group said the allegations are ‘disturbing’ and has urged Trump (left) and his Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly (right) to do a better job at vetting their future employees

DailyMail.com also found that guards investigated for their misconduct were sometimes given lenient punishments.

Only 12 of the guards investigated were fired for their behavior, 14 resigned and 16 chose early retirement.

But 121 were given suspensions – some as little as 24 hours – and 83 were just given counseling.

In 125 cases, officers were given ‘reprimands’, while no action was taken in 102 cases.

Five of the investigations involved agents’ shocking behavior while on official business abroad.

On September 19, 2013, an immigration enforcement agent was suspended for driving a government vehicle drunk on overseas business in Accra, Ghana.

Two months later, in December 2013, an agent was suspended for trying to use his government-issued Blackberry to solicit a prostitute in Bangkok, Thailand.

In February 2014, an agent was accused of driving a government vehicle while drunk in Mexico City, Mexico.

In December 2014, two guards were given reprimands after they were found out to be in a sexual relationship with another guard at an outpost in the US Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica.

In February 2015, an ICE employee was suspended for defecating in a hotel hallway during an official trip to Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago.

BUNGLING BORDER OFFICIALS

2013

FEBRUARY: A border guard in Casa Grande, Arizona, was fired for sexually harassing subordinate employees and creating a hostile work environment.

APRIL: One official in Houston, Texas, avoided any punishment for selling bundles of Cuban cigars, when the economic sanctions against the communist nation were still in place, and the practice was illegal.

MAY: An official in Charleston, South Carolina, resigned after he forged medical records.

JUNE: An officer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was only suspended for one day after they were arrested for a DUI.

AUGUST: A detainee in Moore Haven, Florida, accused a guard of sexual misconduct. The accused was given a ‘letter of reprimand’ as a result.

SEPTEMBER: An immigration enforcement agent was suspended for driving a government vehicle drunk on overseas business in Accra, Ghana.

NOVEMBER: An agent in Los Angeles decided to retire after he was caught using a government-issued gun during a road rage incident.

NOVEMBER: Two agents in Maricopa, Arizona, were given a seven-day suspension for falling asleep while escorting a detainee, while another two officers from the same office were given a reprimand for executing a search warrant at the wrong house.

DECEMBER: An agent from York County, Pennsylvania, was fired for leaving a gun in the bathroom of a prison. The document does not say whether they did it deliberately or by accident.

DECEMBER: An agent was suspended for trying to use his government-issued Blackberry to solicit a prostitute in Bangkok, Thailand.

2014 

JANUARY: A guard was given ‘formal counselling’ after a detainee managed to escape while they were being deported from Clark County, Nevada. The foreigners were eventually apprehended in Las Vegas.

FEBRUARY: An agent was accused of driving a government vehicle while drunk in Mexico City, Mexico

MAY: A guard was arrested for public intoxication at Valley International Airport in Texas.

JULY: An agent was given written counselling after he allegedly released a detainee by mistake.

OCTOBER: Another ICE employee was accused of being drunk at work in Fresno, California

DECEMBER: Two guards were given reprimands after they were found out to be in a sexual relationship with another guard at an outpost in Kingston, Jamaica

2015 

FEBRUARY: An ICE employee was suspended for defecating in a hotel hallway during an official trip to Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago

FEBRUARY: No action was taken when a foreigner was released from detention by mistake.

APRIL: A guard was only given written counselling after he was caught drinking alcohol while on duty.

MAY: A guard was suspended when the same thing happened in Brownsville, Texas

In December 2014, two guards were given reprimands after they were found out to be in a sexual relationship with another guard at an outpost in the US Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica (exterior walls pictured) 

Jessica Vaughan, the Policy Director at the Center for Immigration Studies, told DailyMail.com it is essential for misconduct to be punished

‘It’s always disturbing when mistakes like this are made, or when people show bad judgment, especially those in a law enforcement position, and when their behavior is harmful to others.

‘These incidents must be investigated, and the Office of Professional Responsibility must have the independence and funding it needs to do the job impartially and fairly.

‘Certainly the Trump administration should examine these outcomes and make sure that if there is a move to hire a lot more people into enforcement positions, that they are able to vet people properly to try to minimize the chances of this behavior, and that when it is found, it is dealt with.

‘Some of these incidents are very clearly big problems, like when detainees escape, or employees use government phones to hire prostitutes.

ICE spokesman Sarah Rodriguez told DailyMail.com that allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously and are investigated thoroughly.

‘ICE employees are held to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct,’ she said in a statement.

‘The agency takes all allegations of employee misconduct very seriously and responds appropriately based on investigative findings.

‘ICE upholds DHS standards for integrity and professionalism by ensuring that its Office of Professional Responsibility impartially investigates allegations of employee misconduct and by using those investigations to take appropriate corrective measures.’

Other investigations into ICE by DailyMail.com have uncovered that border officials use private jets to fly immigrants back to their home countries – costing the taxpayers $300,000 every day.

In February 2015, an ICE employee was suspended for defecating in a hotel hallway during an official trip to Port of Spain (pictured) in Trinidad and Tobago

The agency spent $116 million  in 2015 to transport 235,413 people in the United States illegally back to their home countries.

More than 40 per cent of those who had violated visa restrictions were convicted criminals while more than 1,000 were identified as gang members.

The ICE revealed to DailyMail.com that the average cost of every immigrant in 2015 was $12,213.

The cost includes identifying the immigrant, apprehending them, placing them in a detention center, their process through immigration court and their subsequent removal.

More documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request also found that housing an alien in the US’ biggest immigration center in Dilley, Texas, costs more than a night’s stay in the nearest five-star hotel.

Jesse Lerner-Kinglake from Just Detention International, a group campaigning to end all sexual abuse behind bars, highlighted the troubling accusations of guards sexually assaulting detainees.

He told DailyMail.com: ‘These reports of staff sexual misconduct paint a depressing picture of US immigration detention facilities. And it’s especially chilling to think how much longer the list of infractions would be if detainees felt safe reporting sexual abuse.

‘The good news is that the Department of Homeland Security’s Prison Rape Elimination Act standards provide a roadmap for protecting all immigration detainees.

‘The incoming Trump Administration must make adopting these rules a priority.’

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