PEOPLE Make a world of difference ! Were proud of our employees and their contributions to your success and ours. Call us for quality printing, binding, mailing and data processing services. Get to know the people at Futura. FUTUM COMMUNICATIONS, INC P.O. Box 17427 Austin, TX 78760.7427 389-1500 One belonged to Rachel Martel, a 36-yearold El Paso hospital secretary who was attempting to report how a plainclothes Border Patrol agent at the airport allegedly singled her and her 14-year-old daughter out for harassment because they were dark-skinned. Echoing in a Border Patrol office, her singsong Tex-Mex cadences quaked with outrage as a patrol supervisor suggested the abusive agent was an impostor a thug posing as a federal officer. “If an educated citizen can’t get any answers when’they’ re abused,” Martel said bitterly after the taping, “what about all those illegal aliens they deal with?” She, too, received a written denial from the INS three months, six futile telephone calls and four unanswered letters’ after the incident. The other voice was outdoors, backed up by idling cars and car horns. The script is slapstick. “Where can I report a case of abuse?” Juarez dentist Adolfo Lopez asked an Anglo immigration inspector at the Paso Del Norte international bridge in June. \(Lopez wanted to file charges against an INS agent he alleges detained and humiliated his family with racist “A case of what?” the inspector snapped. “Of abuse. Harassment.” “I don’t know.” “You don’t know?” marveled Lopez. “You see, I’ve recently been verbally abused, and I want to know how to report it.” “I don’t know,” the inspector replied. “A case of what?” “A case of abuse. Of verbal assault. I’ve been verbally abused.” “Ah I don’t know. Correct. An officer from there. I don’t know. I don’t know.” “I can’t report it?” Lopez persisted. “In Juarez?” “No, here with you” Lopez pointed at the inspector’s shirt “with the shirts.” “The officer,” the INS man finally huffed, impatiently gesturing with his arm, ” with the officer.” And he directed Lopez to a fruit inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. THE PASSKEY TO THE INS’s skeleton closet turned out to be something of a surprise a telling fragment of the larger puzzle of border abuse. Morale in the immigration service, especially among the Hispanic agents who make up half of the INS payroll, seemed blighted. Almost with a sense of catharsis, erstwhile lifers would agree to meet at a local Denny’s during an off hour, order an iced tea, and talk with the hangdog weariness of spurned men. Disgruntled agents simmered mostly over allegations of racism in the ranks and cronyism by an Anglo old-boy network called the “Texas Mafia.” Promotions of minorities were stymied, they said. Several Border Patrol officers already had filed discrimination suits. And in an internal Equal Employment Opportunity survey leaked by Border Patrol sources, job statistics seemed to back those charges up. In the INS’s Southern Region, which includes 13 states reaching from Florida to New Mexico, Hispanics were clustered disproportionately at the lowest-paid positions. In El Paso, low-skilled Border Patrol jobs were occupied by almost twice as many Hispanics as Anglos, while Anglos outnumbered Hispanics more than two to one in top posts. That same imbalance was evident at the El Paso INS office, which mainly employs bridge inspectors. “That kind of trend leads to the perception within the service of a glass ceiling for minority promotions,” agreed Bob Martinez, the INS’s highest-ranking Hispanic administrator in Washington. “Unfortunately, that perception has a way of becoming reality.” In a remarkable venting of bitterness, agents of all races also complained about the Border Patrol’s intense top-to-bottom pressures to nab more “undocumenteds” essentially vindicating years of allegations by rights activists that the game of cat-and-mouse on the border had essentially become a massive quota exercise. “Numbers make the world go ’round,” remarked Steven Franz, an ex agent who served in El Paso from 1979 to 1985 and is now an investigator with the Texas Education Agency. “More arrests mean more press coverage. More press coverage means more money from Congress.” Case in point: An internal protest obtained by the Times alleges that a supervisor named Ben Chaves lined up his troops last August and coolly informed them that if arrest numbers didn’t start to increase their job performance evaluations would suffer. The agency would not allow Chaves to comment. “We were told that appraisals were coming up and we needed to produce,” said Arcadio J. Neira, one of 13 agents who signed the protest and who is taking the agency to court in an unrelated race discrimination suit. “It’s as if we’re a company producing shoes or pants, not dealing with people.” The irony, of course, is that the very bureaucracies so criticized for their arrogant and brutal treatment of so many on the border should subject their own people to abuse. Whether the internal disaffection will reach critical mass is doubtful, although the Border Patrol union president in San Diego has allowed that some loose talk of a Hispanic class action suit is making the rounds there. In the meantime, the clumsy cudgel of the INS continues to assure that El Paso remains in the news as a dog-eared variety of Dodge City on the Rio Grande. The latest flap? A federal judge ruled last December that the U.S. Border Patrol couldn’t trespass any longer on Bowie High School, an overwhelmingly Hispanic campus where government vans had torn across parade fields and gun-toting agents had bullied teenaged students for IDs. That humiliation in court has actually resulted in some encouraging concessions: The El Paso Border Patrol office has become the first in the nation to create its own public affairs board to handle complaints and concerns. Perhaps this is part of a slow thaw, of a new era of glasnost. Then again, after six months of asking, I still don’t know who pulled the trigger on Enrique Arguelles Palos. El Paso remains in the news as a a dog eared Dodge City on the Rio Grande. 10 MARCH 12, 1993
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