The Price of Conscience: An Interview with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz
...In 2004, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz became a whistleblower against the mistreatment of detainees that he witnessed while working at the Douglas Border Patrol Station.
Reported abuse of detainees included overcrowding of cells, denial of food for 20-30 hours to children and pregnant women, and the forcing of a male detainee into a "stress position" until he
collapsed in pain and exhaustion. Though Ephraim
wrote memos and letters to his
supervisors and political representatives for nearly a year, nothing was done about the mistreatment of undocumented aliens at the Douglas station.Meanwhile, Ephraim
faced retaliation from his
co-workers and supervisors in U.S. Border Patrol
whistle-blowing. In 2005, Ephraim
was charged - and acquitted in federal court - of transporting an illegal immigrant across the border.Ephraim
believes the charges brought against him were thinly-veiled retribution for his
whistle-blowing. Now, U.S. Border Patrol
is attempting to dismiss Ephraim
based on the same charges that he
was acquitted of by a federal court.He
has until Friday (November 9, 2007) to either resign from his
post or be fired. Ephraim
doesn't have the money to hire a civil attorney to help combat this latest move by the U.S. Border Patrol
, nor can he
find a lawyer willing to take on the case pro bono.Ephraim Cruz
needs your help!
If you are (or you know) a civil attorney experienced in a case like this and willing to help Ephraim
, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org If you are willing to donate a few dollars to offset Ephraim's
projected legal fees, please contact him at email@example.com If you are a blogger, journalist, or a member of a non-profit organization, please forward / re-post / link this post to everyone you know to help us get Ephraim's story out!
ephraim.jpgEphraim Cruz was born and raised in South Bronx, New York City.He's a student at Pima Community College where he's studying to be a political writer.
Although I've only known him a short time, I've found Ephraim
to be quick with a PG-13 (or sometimes R-rated) joke, devoutly Christian, passionately involved in community service, deft at Latin dancing, and the most avid text messager I have ever met.In short, Ephraim Cruz
is - at first glance - indistinguishable from your typical college student.
However, it's only when delving deeper into Ephraim's life that I learned of his
unique courage.Tonight, I sat down with Ephraim
to uncover the story of his
whistle-blowing, and how he
fears that retaliation by U.S. Border Patrol
may get the best of him.
Conscience is God's
Even today, Ephraim Cruz
job as a Border Patrol Agent seriously.For years, he
has viewed himself as being a guardian of America's national security and a serviceman in America's immigration crisis.While off-duty, Ephraim
frequently sacrificed his
personal time to help those in need: on the morning of September 11, 2001, Ephraim
was just getting off a midnight shift at the station when he
heard about the fall of the Twin Towers.Immediately, he
jumped into his
car and drove 36 hours back to his
hometown.By late September, Ephraim
was volunteering his
time in the recovery efforts at Ground Zero.
In 2004, Ephraim
had been a Border Patrol for six years and boasted a nearly impeccable employee review record.However, he
had also been witnessing mistreatments of detained Undocumented Aliens (UDA) for some time; mistreatment that continued to occur despite the opening of the state-of-the-art Douglas Border Patrol Station
that was the pride of the U.S. Border Patrol
Ephraim recounts how, as an Agent, he
…violations of policies, training, state laws, fire and health codes, and illegal aliens' civil and human rights within [the Douglas, Arizona] processing facility.
(Memo from E. Cruz to R. Bonner, Commisioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, SUBJECT: "Ongoing Mistreatment of Illegal Aliens and Processing Issues", August 5, 2004)
was shocked to find that many "agents fail[ed] to thoroughly search UDAs" (Memo from E. Cruz to supervisor, dated March 21, 2004).For example, he
remembers how on March 7, 2004, Ephraim
pulled nearly 30 detainees from a cell who still had all of their personal belongings still with them, including several prohibited items such as small blades or tweezers.Other detainees were placed in cells still with weapons - including knives and guns - in their possession.Ephraim
was also amazed to find cells were frequently filled to two or three times their posted capacity, while neighbouring cells were not being utilized at all.Not only was this a clear violation of fire codes, but Ephraim
feared this practice could pose a serious health risk for detainees.
Another practice Ephraim
found disturbing was "supervisors' thwarting of an Agent's efforts to determine the appropriate citizenship of illegal entrants… preferring [that detainees] are assumed to be from Mexico". (Letter from Cruz
to R. Grijalva, Congressman D-AZ, 2004) Ephraim
described to me how at the U.S.-Mexico border, if an undocumented alien is found to have citizenship other than Mexican, they are classified as Other Than Mexican (OTM) and must be detained and officially deported to their country of citizenship.However, Mexican nationals without a criminal record in the U.S. are offered a "Voluntary Return (VR)" to Mexico - an option that is faster and cheaper for the American government.Ephraim
was angered that "agents have been retaliated against for determining [a detainee's] true country of citizenship", (Letter from Cruz
to R. Grijalva, Congressman D-AZ, 2004) and were instead encouraged to assume Mexican nationality of any alien who "was brown and could pass for Mexican" by speaking Spanish.For a man who took to heart issues of national security, Ephraim
was galled when he
realized that "even if they were a terrorist, [a detainee] could be returned to Mexico without incident", based purely on institutionalized racial profiling.Rather than to process the lengthy paperwork involved in deporting a detainee, supervisors were content to let them be, according to Ephraim
, "somebody else's problem", even if it meant allowing another 9/11.
In a similar practice, agents were lax in checking backgrounds of those who came to claim detained unaccompanied minors.In a Tucson Weekly article, Ephraim
describes how minors were frequently released "to anybody who claims that they are this person's father, uncle or guardian".No concern was placed on the safety of minors released into the care of those who might be complete strangers.
But, most heart-wrenching for Ephraim
was the observation that detainees were frequently going twenty to thirty hours at a time without food.In his
March 21, 2004 memo, Ephraim recounts how he
watched a young ten-year-old boy - whom his
mother described as in good health - break out into red bumps after going more than twenty hours without a meal.Later that same day, Ephraim
remembers how a young girl went more than thirty hours without food, and complained of feeling faint.These were hardly isolated incidents: Ephraim
remembers countless children and pregnant women who went without food for two or three shifts at a time.
writes in an August 5, 2004 memo (Memo from E. Cruz to R. Bonner, SUBJECT: "Ongoing Mistreatment of Illegal Aliens and Processing Issues"):
"The integrity of those meal times are habitually violated, and crackers and juice are not always available.Furthermore, when crackers and juice are indeed available, it is not readily provided to the detainees… It is station policy that we feed all illegal aliens held beyond six to eight hours.Many illegal aliens easily go two to three times beyond that time frame without one meal."
In that same memo, Ephraim recounts how on July 31, 2004, he
approached the control room that 220 meals would be needed that day, only to be told that 70 meals would be ordered.Most likely, Ephraim
opined, two-thirds of detainees at the facility went hungry that day.According to Ephraim
, the Douglas station also went weeks at a time without replenishing their supply of juice and crackers, and even when such items were in stock, they were not always made available to detainees.In one incident, Ephraim
left some juice and crackers near the door of a holding cell only to have a fellow Agent remove the food moments later, muttering to Ephraim
that by leaving it within reach of detainees, they might assume the food was for them.
Ephraim notes, "when someone is taken into custody, you become their guardian.They should be fed.With minors, it becomes child abuse if you're not feeding them."
As a devoutly Christian man, Ephraim
was compelled to speak out against these mistreatments.He
believes "a man's conscience is God's