In May, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed Claudia Patricia Gómez González, a 19-year-old teenager from Guatemala, shortly after she crossed into the United States. In September, a Border Patrol agent went on a killing spree, targeting and murdering four women he believed were sex workers. Seemingly not a day goes by without a new story about a Border Patrol agent who has abused his position to partner with drug smugglers and enrich himself.
On Monday, the New York Times detailed another horrifying story of violence committed by a Border Patrol agent: In March 2014, Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares preyed on three women he encountered after they had crossed the Rio Grande River in Texas, violently attacking and sexually assaulting them.
From the Times:
Mr. Manzanares made a series of stops with them. J.E. recalled that he told them to get on their knees so he could put plastic restraints on their wrists. On one of the last stops, M.G.’s daughter, N.C., watched Mr. Manzanares force her mother out of the back of the truck and lead her into the woods.
“I was crying, telling him to leave my mom alone,” said N.C., who is now 18.
M.G., now 40, recalled hearing her daughter’s screams as he led her away. “I was begging him to kill me but not kill my daughter, and my daughter was screaming there where she was, ‘Come kill me, don’t harm my mother.’”
He threw M.G. down, twisted her neck and cut her wrists. “I felt I was losing consciousness, but every time my daughter screamed, I didn’t want to go,” she said.
He returned to the truck for N.C. She said she had only one thing on her mind: “I was only thinking about finding my mother.” Mr. Manzanares took N.C. out into the woods, twisted her neck, molested her, took pictures of her, cut her wrist and then covered her with dirt and brush, as she pretended to be dead.
Manzanares then handcuffed J.E., who was 14 years old at the time, to a tree and covered her mouth with duct tape, leaving her for hours before taking her to his apartment and repeatedly raping her.
As the Times notes, this sort of violence is not new to the agency: “Over the past four years, at least 10 people in South Texas have been victims of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping or rape—all, according to prosecutors and officials, at the hands of Border Patrol agents who suddenly and violently snapped.”
Manzanares shot and killed himself before he could be arrested. According to the Times, Manzanares, who was a veteran who had served abroad, wrote in a suicide note that “he had been troubled since coming back from Afghanistan.” According to Customs and Border Patrol’s own statistics, almost one-third of CBP’s workforce are former military.
The three women filed a civil suit, and as the lawsuit has made its way through the courts, more troubling details have emerged, from a lack of supervision to gaps in the background check process:
Lawyers for the three women presented evidence that Mr. Manzanares’s supervisors failed to notice or intervene when the agent ignored his duties for hours, and failed to thoroughly inspect his truck when he returned at the end of his shift. If they had, the evidence showed, they would have seen it contained used duct tape, blood and discarded restraints.
Mr. Manzanares, a father of two, had no major disciplinary infractions during his six years with the agency, which he joined in 2008 after serving with the United States Army in Afghanistan and working as a jailer for the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. But according to court documents, he appeared to have become a pedophile, and one of the issues in the lawsuit has been whether the Border Patrol should have conducted the kind of employee reviews that would have brought that to light.
The three women now live in Virginia, and have received U visas, which are granted to survivors of sexual assault and other crimes.
One of them, M.G., still has scars on her wrists. Manzanares often returns to her in her nightmares, she said. “Every time I dream it, I live through it again,” she told the Times. “Sometimes I’d like to block my mind and think this didn’t happen, but this did happen.”