Texas Border Agent Allegedly Sexually Harassed Mother of Child Held in Detention Center

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty

A border agent who worked at a child detention facility in Clint, TX allegedly sent harassing messages to the mother of a 12-year-old child who was detained where he worked, according to the Washington Post. The mother filed a complaint with Customs and Border Protection about the alleged incident.

The complaint alleges that the agent sent abusive chats and video calls to the undocumented Guatemalan woman living in California while he held her son in detention. The messages included a video of the agent masturbating. The agent apparently asked for her Facebook handle after she was allowed to speak by phone with her son, and she agreed, hoping she might find out more information about his case.

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“I felt like the world was falling on top of me,” the 48-year-old mother told the Post. “I felt my son is in the hands of a bad man.”

CBP says the agency is aware of the allegations and is investigating the woman’s claims.

“The vast majority of CBP employees are dedicated, honest, compassionate and fair professionals,” spokesman Matthew F. Leas told the Post. “This alleged conduct is not in line with our code of conduct and will not be tolerated.”

This is hardly the first time a CBP agent has been accused of abuse. A recently discovered private Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents included violent misogynistic and racist content. Other agents have been accused of verbally abusing children, retaliating against children for complaining, and sexually abusing underage girls.

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It’s unknown whether the agent accused of abuse by this woman is still working at the detention facility. CBP declined to say.

The woman’s child apparently crossed into the U.S. on April 18th, attempting to reunite with his mother in California. She has lived there for most of his life working as a housecleaner and sending money back to her family in Guatemala. She told the Post that she asked her son to come to the States because he was entering adolescence, when it was likely he’d be recruited to join a gang.

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Two days after her son entered the U.S., she received a phone call from him.

From the Post:

“I asked him where he was calling me from, and he didn’t know,” she said. “Then I heard the voice of this officer, and the officer took the phone.”

“You see, Señora, your son is okay,” the new voice said in Spanish.

“You do a great job, helping so many children,” she answered, hoping for another chance to speak to her son.

The agent seemed friendly, “educated and respectful,” she remembered, noting that he said he wanted to be her friend and wanted to keep her informed about her son’s situation while he was at the facility.

“It felt like a relief to have someone on the inside who could tell me what was going on day and night,” she said in a recent interview.

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The agent then allegedly said they could speak on video chat via Facebook Messenger. He said he would send her a friend request through a fake account.

That afternoon, the agent called her.

From the Post:

When she answered, the live video popped up on her screen and she could see the agent for the first time. The man appeared to be lying on a bed, with the camera aimed at the lower half of his body. She could see his dark brown shorts, legs and bare feet.

She thought it strange and asked to see his face. He flashed the camera upward for a moment before settling it again on his shorts.

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She and the agent talked for 25 minutes about his life, including his failed relationship. He asked whether she was single and she declined to answer, saying she left a violent relationship in Guatemala in 2007. She said it’d be nice to meet, and he said they could get to know each other without meeting. He then began masturbating on camera.

“‘Look at me. Look at me,’” the woman told the Post she remembered the agent saying as she looked away. “‘Do you like it?’”

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“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how to act,” she told the Post. “I thought: ‘My God, what is going to happen with my child? Did this guy do anything to him?”

The call ended when the woman’s battery died. When she turned it back on, she had more messages from the agent.

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From the Post:

“I need you :(” he wrote in Spanish, in messages viewed by The Post. “You didn’t answer anymore :(”

“I don’t know what you thought of me,” she replied.

She was afraid, alone in her room, and she began to cry. That night she couldn’t sleep. And the next day, feeling increasingly panicked, she texted the agent to ask whether her son was still at Clint. The agent said he was, so she pleaded with him to help her, to let her speak with him. “Please don’t be bad. . . . Don’t forget that I am alone here,” she wrote.

“I’m busy now,” the agent responded.

The woman ended up calling a hotline for a legal-aid group who had her fill out a complaint to CBP.

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“She is obviously frightened and does not want her son in the hands of this agent,” the complaint reads. “These are very serious allegations and we wanted to make sure that first and foremost the child is safe and that these allegations are investigated.”

The son was apparently transferred out of the station to a facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services within days.

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The woman says she met with CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility in May and showed them the Facebook messages. In June, she was reunited with her son for the first time since he was 8 months old.

The son described conditions in detention as harsh, and said he hadn’t been allowed to brush his teeth for eight days, which lines up with other allegations by children held in detention. He said the children specifically feared the agent who she had spoken to on Facebook.

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From the Post:

The boy described the agent in detail, saying that he stood out to the migrants there. He said the agent cursed at the children, ridiculed some of them as “ugly” and told them that they would “regret coming to this country.”

When the agent saw some of the boys looking at his gun, “he said we didn’t have permission to look at his gun, and he said if we touched the gun, he’d shoot us,” the boy said. “He also said that if we whistled at the girls or touched them, they could shoot us.”

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CBP says the investigation is ongoing, but the woman says she is afraid that the agent could come after her and her family. The government has all of her personal information, including her address.

“He could come, or he could send someone else,” she told the Post “He’s the law, right?”

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Read the rest of the story over at the Post.

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