President Trump has vowed a hiring surge of 10,000 immigration and customs officers to accelerate the deportation of unauthorized immigrants. But the aggressive pace he has laid out risks adding to the ranks of rogue agents who have been charged with abusing immigrants.
Over the past decade, dozens of Immigration and Customs Enforcementagents and contract guards responsible for the detention and removal of undocumented immigrants have been arrested and charged with beating people, smuggling drugs into detention centers, having sex with detainees and accepting bribes to delay or stop deportations, agency documents and court records show.
One agent took pictures of himself having sex with a minor in a foreign country after dropping off deportees. In another case, an ICE lawyer pretending to be an immigration judge took bribes to remove official documents from the files of people awaiting deportation.
These officials make up a small fraction of the work force at the agency, now comprising almost 20,000 people, but former Homeland Security officials and human rights workers say that even a few bad officers can be a problem because they hold such power over a vulnerable population.The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, told a Senate committee in February that the agency would “face a number of challenges” in executing Mr. Trump’s executive orders because it had “inadequate systems to track and process applicants.”
Mr. Roth said his office was conducting an audit of previous hiring surges to help the agency avoid practices that may have led to corruption and misconduct by staff members.
Human rights activists expressed similar worries about a hiring wave.
“Given the things that have been documented in the past — beatings, sexual assaults and other abuses — it doesn’t seem like they have much oversight of the people they have now. And they want to add more?” said Justin Mazzola, deputy director of research for Amnesty International in New York.
Mr. Mazzola’s concern is borne out in a number of cases in which ICE employees have been accused or convicted of abuse.
In Philadelphia, Justin Ford pleaded guilty to stealing money from undocumented immigrants being processed for removal.
In New Jersey, Arnaldo Echevarria was convicted on charges of extracting bribes from people facing deportation.
And in Detroit, Clifton Divers was arrested after the authorities said he had provided false information to federal immigration authorities in order to delay the deportation of several immigrants facing removal.
Mr. Ford and Mr. Echevarria were deportation officers who supervised unauthorized immigrants. Mr. Divers is a special agent with ICE Homeland Security Investigations who prosecutors say took $5,000 from an immigration attorney to put off several deportations by claiming that the immigrants had information about crimes.
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