GUEST PERSPECTIVE: Honor First is a Lie
Pictured: Female US Border Patrol Agent at border. Source: Getty Images
Female Border Patrol agents were not surprised to hear that Chief Tony Barker suddenly up and quit. He has quite a reputation among us.
We were also not shocked to hear that Border Patrol officials leaked to Barker that he was being investigated for using his position to coerce junior female agents into having sex with him.
Chief Barker’s alleged misconduct is ubiquitous in the agency. Let us not forget the pornographic memes of female congressional members that Border Patrol agents shared on their private social page “I’m 10-15” Facebook page that both Chief Rodney Scott and Chief Carla Provost were members of and that no one was ever held accountable for.
Yes, even female Border Patrol agents participate in the agency’s robust rape culture. That is why they get promoted.
I am not saying they don’t deserve to be promoted; female agents are some of the cruelest towards migrants in that they are often trying to prove themselves worthy. I include myself in that observation. Female agents cannot get promoted unless they are willing to help cover up the rape culture. This is how Chief Provost obtained her position; by staying silent about the truth and repeating the lies the agency pushes as to why there are so few of us.
By no means am I saying that all men in the Border Patrol are sexual predators. They are not. What I am saying with clear conviction, extensive research and experience as a former agent is that the U.S. Border Patrol has a strong rape culture that is protected by all agents including female agents. One cannot be a Border Patrol agent and not know how bad the rape culture is in the agency. Our silence, both male and female agents, makes us all complicit.
When the news broke about Chief Barker’s alleged sexual misconduct, even the Border Patrol Laredo Sector Union President Hector Garza, and the Laredo Sector Union itself admitted the truth:
Agent Garza and the Laredo Sector Union are correct in that male agents refer to the agency’s motto of “Honor First” as “On Her First” whenever new female agents arrive at the academy or their stations.
While I am pleased to see someone from the union finally telling the truth about the agency’s rape culture, it is telling that the union is aware of this sexual misconduct by management officials and yet, has done nothing to protect female agents who also pay union dues. Unfortunately, what Agent Garza and the Laredo Sector Union are not telling you is that the rape culture is not limited to those in management.
It is true that many in management use their positions to coerce sex from those under their leadership. It is also true that many of those not in management are getting away with sexual assaults/harassments thanks to the union.
Whether victims are female agents, male agents, or migrants, there is little they can do in these situations to seek justice or safety aside from either filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility (CBP OPR) or the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG). However, even these avenues for justice are heavily controlled by current and former agents as both CBP and Border Patrol have filled both the DHS OIG and CBP OPR oversight agencies with their own agents. This is why there is rarely ever any accountability in these cases.
Add to this that the Project On Government Oversight recently discovered that the Inspector General of DHS OIG, Joseph Cufarri, redacted and censored reports from his investigators on just how bad the rape culture is in CBP, Border Patrol and DHS as a whole, and it is clear that the federal government has a large and capable system set in place to hide and cover up sexual violence/harassment that is not just occurring against migrants and children, but also against their own employees.
In the Border Patrol, the EEOC advisers who take your initial complaint are predominately male Border Patrol agents in management who work at the same station as you and your assaulter/harasser do. These advisers direct agents who are sexually assaulted/harassed by their brothers in green towards the EEOC process instead of criminal charges in many cases to keep the investigations secret from the media as the federal government has set up all sorts of privacy laws.
Even if EEOC, OPR, or OIG finds in your favor, they will keep the investigation secret. You will never know what or if any punishment was given to your assaulter/harasser and he will likely be promoted to another sector to assault/harass other agents.
If your assaulter/harasser is not in management and is a union member as most agents are, the union will provide “expert advice and representation for EEO” cases. That’s not expert advice and representation for the victims. It’s expert advice and representation for the alleged offenders. Even if you are a union member, the union will advise and represent your assaulter/harasser and not you.
As the victim, you must use your own personal vacation and sick leave to deal with the trauma of being sexually assaulted/harassed by your brothers in green. Your assaulter/harasser will be able to take work hours to be interviewed by investigators. You will have to pay for your own attorneys and mental health care. You will still have to work around your assaulter/harasser and if you ask not to, they will give you a worthless position meant to isolate you while your assaulter/harasser continues as if nothing happened. You may be ordered to qualify with your firearm with your assaulter/harasser. You will likely be drug tested. If you admit to receiving psychological counseling for your trauma, you will be drug tested. If you are taking any medication for your trauma, you will be fired.
Everyone in your station, at the local union and in management will know that you filed a complaint, and you will be judged and retaliated against. You will be assigned to dangerous and isolated positions. When you call for backup, they will not respond. Your personal property like your car may be damaged. You may even be intentionally run over in the parking lot by another agent and then warned to keep your mouth shut as I was after I reported my rape by my fellow classmate in green.
This dirty little secret of the Border Patrol is not so little, and it is why there are only 5% women in the agency. It is not because the work is hard. It is because male agents sexually assault, rape and harass female agents. It is because those in management do nothing to change the rape culture but instead participate by keeping silent and giving the offenders notice that they are under investigation. The Border Patrol is like the Catholic Church; it just moves its sexual predators around. It is never about what is best for the victims, but what is best for the Border Patrol.
The Border Patrol rape culture is systemic, and it is what allowed Assistant Chief Gustavo Zamora retire and collect his pension before he was charged with kidnapping and raping a fellow junior female agent. It is what allowed Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Armando Gonzalez to retire after years of filming female agents using the restroom at San Diego Sector Headquarters and sharing the videos with other agents in management. It is what allowed Border Patrol Agent Brian Dick to think he could get away with raping a female agent after a softball game. It is what allowed these agents to rape for years without consequences: Supervisory Border Patrol Agent John Daly III, Border Patrol Agent Esteban Manzanares, and Border Patrol Agent Steven Holmes who was initially arrested in 2019 for sexual assault and strangulation of at least three women, then released on bond so he could continue working for the Tucson Border Patrol Sector. Holmes then once again raped and attempted to strangle another woman before he was finally convicted and had his employment terminated.
This rape culture also allows for agents to commit sexual assaults/rapes on children: Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Joseph Giuliano of Blaine Sector, Border Patrol Agent and Tucson Sector’s Chaplain Dana Thornhill who was convicted of child sexual assault when he was a teenager and yet was still hired by the agency, Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Berner, Border Patrol Agent Jeremy Coles, Border Patrol Agent Paul Adams, Border Patrol Agent Alejandro Dominguez, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Kyle Mrofka, Border Patrol Agent Paul Whipple, Border Patrol Agent Orlando Gomez, Border Patrol Agent Abel Michael Quiroz, Border Patrol Agent Luis Lozada, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jason Christopher Davis, Border Patrol Agent Vernon Lee Millican, Border Patrol Agent Juan Quintanilla, Border Patrol Agent Jason Edward Gamboa, Border Patrol Agent William Michael Berends…and many more.
It is past time to tell the truth about the Border Patrol’s rape culture. It is time to recognize that EEOC, OPR and OIG have become black boxes that hide this culture, to admit that the pornographic memes we saw in the “I’m 10-15” Facebook group were not anomalies but the systemic rape culture that female agents, citizens living near these agents, migrants and even children in custody have suffered There is no protection, justice or restitution for any of us who are victims of these predatory agents. The union, EEOC, OPR, and OIG protect the agency, not the victims of these agents.
My suggestion, my demand is that President Biden order a review of the EEOC, OPR and OIG cases by an independent, academic team of sexual misconduct experts.
Jenn Budd is a former Senior Patrol Agent, San Diego Sector Senior Intelligence Agent, and Acting Supervisory Border Patrol Agent. She is responsible for the takedown of the agency’s coverup teams known as Critical Incident Teams and exposes its rampant rape culture. Her new book, “Against the Wall,” describes the Border Patrol’s rape culture in detail.