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Border Patrol Stats Show Agents Commit Crimes More Than the Migrants They Arrest

Updated: Dec 20, 2023



I first arrived at Campo Border Patrol Station in November 1995, the station was still using hand written carbon copies for processing migrants and full smuggling investigations. Within months of my arrival, in between working the field, I became the statistician for the station along with a few others. Few agents at that time had computer experience. Older agents, who we referred to as crusty, would have to tell us younger agents what happened in a vehicle stop or drug bust, and we then wrote up their cases on the computers for them.


Even after we got computers to process with, we still did not have programs like Border Patrol's ENFORCE that made processing much faster. Instead, I and a supervisor I was assigned to created a processing file of sorts for agents at the station. If an agent apprehended a migrant with a prior criminal conviction, the forms needed to complete that case were all in one file on the share drive with examples for agents to learn from. I literally had to recreate every government form on Microsoft Office and then create the files for the various types of cases we did.


Once the ENFORCE processing program became available to us, I became a station intelligence officer. I was a GS-9 at the time, and sector mandated only GS-11 agents who were also known as Senior Patrol Agents could be trusted with intelligence. Since all three of our Senior Patrol guys did not even know how to process a case on a computer, I was placed in that position. Station intelligence back then involved a hour or two of bean counting as we called it; how many migrants were apprehended, where and from what countries they came from, etc. The rest of shift I spent out patrolling wherever I wanted to work. So, while it was a desk job, it was a desk job with a lot of freedom that kept me off of stationary positions and allowed me to work wherever I chose once I finished the prior shift's tallies.


This is how I know so much about Border Patrol statistics, how they are collected and what they mean. It is also why I can see what is missing. Over the years of studying my former employer, I have also noticed that the way in which the agencies present much of this information on the CBP website prevents analysis, at least deep analysis. Before 2015, Customs and Border Protection (CBP - Border Patrol's parent agency) and Border Patrol statistics were reported in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reports. These reports were difficult to understand and prevented readers from drawing basic conclusions.


In 2015, CBP began producing their own annual report with more information and with interactive charts. Still, the organization and structure of how statistics are presented allows readers to only see what CBP and Border Patrol want them to see. By collecting these statistical reports over the years and placing them in one chart, I can see patterns I could not see before.



Arrests of CBP employees including Border Patrol employees.


CBP & Border Patrol employee arrest stats. Source: CBP.gov.

Every year when CBP releases employee arrests statistics, they like to point out that less than 1% of employees are arrested every year. That is true. The reason why they use this number is because it is the national average of arrests in law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The only year that they come close is 2018 with .7%. However, if you take a look at the total after nine years of statistics reporting on employee arrests, there have been 2,224 personnel arrested. Even when I round up the number of CBP employees to 65,000, you can see that over the last nine years 3.4% of CBP and Border Patrol employees have been arrested.


The chart above shows that alcohol and drug arrests are consistently the highest of all crimes committed by CBP and Border Patrol employees. This is still an undercount as many law enforcement are given what is called "professional courtesy." This is when a CBP officer or Border Patrol agent is arrested for a crime and arresting officers decide not to charge them. Crimes like DUIs, solicitation for prostitution, possession of narcotics, etc. often fall into this type of under reporting.


Following closely behind is the domestic violence category. This category is woefully undercounted. In my experience as a Border Patrol agent and from my work studying the agency, I have found that the majority of domestic violence crimes committed by agents are never reported. When they are reported, the local cops responding often tell the agent's spouse not file charges because it could endanger the agent's job. When that doesn't work, the agent's supervisor will talk to the spouse and try and convince them to not file charges because it would hurt the image of the Border Patrol and the agent.


Domestic abuse is so rampant in CBP and the Border Patrol that even the oversight investigation reports completed by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has been proven to be an undercount. See this article: "Protecting the Predators at DHS." The following is an example of how domestics are often handled in the Border Patrol. Although it is from 1999, this report is what I commonly witnessed as an agent and still see management doing today.


Leavitt v. City of El Paso (EP-99-CA-76-EP)


"On March 17, 1997, Maria Susana ("Suzy") Alvarez was shot and killed by her husband, Alejandro Alvarez, a United States Border Patrol agent. In killing his wife, Agent Alvarez used the duty weapon the Border Patrol had issued to him. Agent Alvarez was convicted of his wife's murder."
"Suzy Alvarez's death was the culmination of a lengthy abusive relationship with her husband. She had gone to the El Paso police department several times with claims of abuse, even visiting a police station the night before she was killed. Mrs. Alvarez had also complained to the Border Patrol, her husband's employer."
"Agent Alvarez did not have a particularly impressive employment record at the Border Patrol. He was originally hired in November 1988 and was stationed in Laredo, Texas. In 1992, he transferred to El Paso. In October 1994 he received a reprimand for conduct unbecoming a Service officer. According to the U.S.'s summary judgment evidence, this conduct appears to be aggravated assault against Suzy Alvarez. In March 1995, he received a three-day suspension for sleeping on duty. This was followed shortly by three more incidents of sleeping on duty and two unauthorized absences from work. In June 1995, he told the Border Patrol that he had a drinking problem for which he required help. Subsequently, he was counseled for poor performance, and was observed looking "gaunt and haggard" and reaching for the butt of his gun when asked if he was all right. (Def. U.S.A. Exhibit 5). In August 1995, he was admitted to a rehabilitation center, and on August 31, 1995, he was issued a firm choice letter indicating that he had to either receive effective alcohol treatment or he would be fired. The letter also indicated that he would be fired if he engaged in "any misconduct such as sleeping on duty, alcohol or drug related misconduct, or [had] alcohol or drug related performance deficiencies." On March 31, 1996, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. This arrest resulted in a letter from the Border Patrol proposing Alvarez's removal as an agent. Despite this letter, he was not fired. He did, however, sign a last chance agreement in August 1996, indicating he would comply with Border Patrol regulations or else he would lose his job."
"Suzy Alvarez had several dealings with the El Paso Police Department concerning her husband during the course of her marriage. In March 1993, she went to the East Valley Station with complaints of abuse. While there, the desk officer suggested that she deal with this problem through the civil justice system, so as not to injure the Border Patrol's reputation. In March 1994, she again went to the police. This time a complaint was filed. Arrest warrants were issued for Alejandro Alvarez but were eventually canceled. There is a fact issue about whether Suzy Alvarez actually requested that the charges be dropped. On June 15, 1994, police went to the Alvarez home because of a fight. Later, Suzy called the detective on the case and requested that charges be dropped. She again went to the police station on June 18, 1994 reporting that her husband had assaulted her and had pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her. A complaint was filed, and a police report later indicates that Suzy Alvarez did not want to press charges on this complaint. Police were again called to the Alvarez home in April 1995, resulting in a written complaint being filed."
"Additionally, Alejandro Alvarez had another series of incidents involving the El Paso police. On March 31, 1996, Juana Bellah, a woman who had dated Alejandro Alvarez shortly before the incident, called the police because Alejandro was drunk, beating on her door and yelling. He also threatened to kick in the door. Ms. Bellah called the police. Officers Lom and Wilburn arrived approximately two minutes later. Ms. Bellah told them that Mr. Alvarez was her ex-boyfriend, that he was a border patrol agent and that she wanted them to take him home. She testified at her deposition that the police officer's demeanor changed immediately once they heard he was a border patrol agent. The officers drove him home but left his car parked in her driveway. The officers dropped him off at his apartment, without turning him over to anyone."
"The evening before she was murdered, Ms. Alvarez went to the El Paso Shelter for Battered Women but was turned away because of a policy of not accepting women into the shelter unless they had a police escort. She then went with her sister, brother-in- law, and children to the East Valley police station in El Paso. Although there are fact disputes about details of this visit, when viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, they arrived at the station around 6 p.m. Ms. Alvarez requested a police escort to the shelter. It is undisputed that she originally told the officer at the front desk that her husband had not abused her in the immediate past. Her sister, Dolores Olivas, however, told the officer that Mr. Alvarez had previously taken his wife to the desert, pointed a gun at her head and threatened to kill her. Once her sister showed the officer a burn on Ms. Alvarez's arm, Ms. Alvarez told the officer that her husband had caused the burn. At some point, the officer called for a police escort, but refused to take Ms. Olivas to pick up diapers and milk for Ms. Alvarez's baby. Ms. Alvarez decided to go back home and return to the station for an escort the next day when her husband would be at work. The desk officer did not try to change her mind and held the door open for her on her way out. She and her family left the station around 6:53 or 6:58. The next day, after having left Alejandro Alvarez, she was killed at her mother's house."

Another important category to analyze is the corruption. It's difficult to say what CBP and Border Patrol believe to be corruption. As former Commissioner of CBP Internal Affairs James Tomsheck has stated, the agency tries to change what constitutes corruption to make their numbers seem smaller than they are. Another reason why the public cannot trust CBP and Border Patrol numbers on corruption is because they do not consider some of their actions to be corruption even when they clearly are. Take for example the Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams. These CIT units were designed in the 1980s and 90s to get rid of evidence that did not exonerate their agents before the actual criminal investigators could get to the scene. It's been documented that in the three decades of their existence, they prevented most agents from being held accountable for violent use of force violations. To learn more about how these units and how they work, see my report here.


Lastly, the chart above demonstrates that an average of two or more CBP employees have been arrested every week for the last 9 years.



Percentages of Border Patrol employees arrested for crimes versus the migrants they apprehend.

As mentioned, the average percentage of arrests for most US law enforcement agencies is around 1% per year according to the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database. However, this 2019 article shows how Border Patrol employees are arrested five times more than any other law enforcement groups. From secret and illegal coverup teams, to secret investigations that victims and the public are not allowed to even read, to sealed court documents for agents and officers involved in sexual crimes of fellow co-workers, their own children, co-worker's children, migrants and unaccompanied children in custody...the list is long. I am not being hyperbolic when I say these numbers are just the tip of an iceberg. CBP and Border Patrol rely on employees to self report those crimes that are not reported to them by other law enforcement agencies.



Percentage of Border Patrol employees arrested versus migrants they apprehend. Source: CBP.gov. Note that 2023 numbers are not in yet.

Again, if we just look at the percentage of Border Patrol employees arrested from 2015 to 2022, we can clearly see that the annual number is below their 1% goal. I have often wondered how this percentage of Border Patrol employee arrests compared to the percentage of criminal migrants they apprehended. It took years of collecting this information to be able to see the comparison.


From 2015 to 2017, criminal migrants arrested by agents was higher than the percentage of Border Patrol employees being arrested. I'm sure this was a relief for the agency leaders. Yet, from 2018 to 2022, the trend reversed. This is partly due to the number of migrants crossing increasing. There was a huge increase in migrant apprehensions starting in 2021 which would naturally cause an increase in migrants with prior criminal histories to increase as well.


There is however a more interesting reason why the number of criminal migrants apprehended per year increases so drastically after Trump's administration. During the Trump reign, Border Patrol began the Zero Tolerance Policy that sent many first time irregular crossers seeking asylum to jail for a felony. This change in policy then created a new category of "re-entry after deportation" which drastically increased the numbers of criminal migrants apprehended. This is significant because it drastically increased the percentages of migrants with criminal records, and better yet, made the numbers of crimes committed by Border Patrol employees seem not quite as bad since the employees are excluded from this crime category.


I have removed this category for the calculations of the percentages for two reasons. First, I cannot compare the percentage of employees versus migrants if a have one extra category for the migrants that cannot exist for the employees. Secondly, the charge of re-entry after deportation is a serious charge that historically was only used for those who had previously committed a crime and been convicted. It was not used for repeat border crossers. The only reason Border Patrol added "re-entry after deportation" to the criminal migrant category was to make the criminal migrant statistics much higher. As you can clearly see, it often doubled the number of criminal migrants.


From 2018 to current, the percentage of Border Patrol employees arrested for criminal activity has been higher than the people they are arresting for immigration violations.








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