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Murders by CBP Agents Underscore Need to Keep High Hiring Standards

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

The news of a serial killer capture sent shockwaves into immigrant communities around the country. The reason: The accused was a Border Patrol agent.

In September 2018, Juan David Ortiz confessed to killing four individuals, while a fifth narrowly escaped. The authorities in Webb County, Texas have not dismissed the possibility of finding more victims.

The individuals were all murdered in what authorities have called a killing spree that took place between September 3 and September 15, 2018.

“He was profiling certain kinds of victims,” Webb County District Attorney Isidro R. “Chilo” Alaniz said. “The suspect was hunting for his victims.” The prosecutor described Ortiz as a serial killer.

This is not the only recent deadly incident involving a Border Patrol agent.

On April 2018, Ronald Anthony Burgos Aviles was arrested for the double homicide of a woman and her 1-year-old son.

Burgos Aviles claimed he discovered their bodies near the river banks in Laredo, but investigators quickly learned that he was in a relationship with the woman. Prosecutors are asking for the death penalty for Burgos Aviles.

Both agents were Border Patrol supervisors.

Ortiz and Burgos Aviles, who worked in the Laredo sector, were hired nearly a decade ago amidst a surge in staffing. A subsequent rise in misconduct incidents was so troubling it moved Congress to pass an act to improve hiring practices.

Records indicate that after the hiring surge there was a 44 percent increase in CPB misconduct, including civil rights violations and off-duty crimes, such as domestic violence. There were also 1,700 allegations of excessive force, and compared with other enforcement agencies, CBP agents had more incidents of sexual abuse and assault.

The Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010, passed by Congress, added steps to the hiring process, including a polygraph and cognitive exam, fingerprinting, financial disclosures, fitness tests, medical examinations, and background checks of CBP applicants.

Now Trump wants to repeat the surge, hiring up to 5,000 new Border Patrol agents. Some lawmakers want to lower the requirements ordered by the Anti-Border Corruption Act, especially the polygraph test. The House passed a bill in June to that effect, but the Senate has not acted upon this bill so far.

It is clear that better-qualified Customs and Border Patrol agents depend in great measure on keeping high recruitment standards, avoiding the pressure to hire individuals with problems that may become a danger not only to detainees but to the safety of the overall community. Yes, the whole community.