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Federal legislators weigh in on Border Patrol allegations

Jessica Cuffman • Jan 31, 2013 at 5:10 AM

While U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, did not respond to the Register’s request for comments on this issue, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, offered brief responses through their spokespeople.   

Attorneys have filed two lawsuits — representing nine individuals and two organizations — accusing Sandusky Bay Border Patrol agents of embracing a culture of racism and using racial profiling in this region.     

One of the suits references Border Patrol emails and internal documents in which agents use the term “wets” or “wetbacks,” a derogatory term for Mexicans or Hispanics.

More to the point, the suit points to data showing more than 60 percent of the Sandusky Bay Border Patrol’s arrests or stops have targeted Hispanics.

A federal court has sealed most of the documents in the case at the request of the Border Patrol.  

The Register obtained one of the documents prior to a judge’s decision to seal it. The document references correspondence in which Sandusky Bay Border Patrol’s lead agent, Cory Bammer, used the term “wets” when referring to undocumented Hispanic people in the U.S.   

While the document is no longer available on the court website, the Register has published it online at sanduskyregister.com.

Through his spokeswoman, Meghan Dubyak, Sen. Brown said Customs and Border Patrol should take action in this matter if the allegations prove true.   

“Sen. Brown believes that there is no place for racial slurs in our society, particularly among public servants,” Brown’s office stated in an email to the Register. “If the allegations are true, then Customs and Border Patrol should take action to ensure that this type of behavior is not repeated.”

Brown also cited a community meeting he held in Cleveland last June with high-level Immigration and Customs Enforcement representatives and about 50 other community stakeholders from across Northern Ohio, “where these allegations and others were raised.”  

Through spokesman Steve Fought, Rep. Kaptur largely declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

Her office did, however, say she remains concerned about the allegations.   

“Obviously the congresswoman is concerned about allegations that would involve potential infringements on anyone’s civil rights,” Fought said in an interview with the Register. “I don’t think it would be wise to comment at this time precisely because it’s the matter of legal action.”

“There’s a lot that’s not known about this. The use of slurs by anyone in position of authority is a matter of concern to any individual,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol have refused to provide the Register with the names of people agents have arrested over the years.

Any documentation the agencies have provided have been heavily redacted, with names of arrested individuals removed.

The Register’s editorial board has called on Brown, Kaptur and Portman to address the concerns raised in the community about the Border Patrol’s tactics and lack of accountability.

Kaptur has responded twice, expressing concern, and she and Brown have assured the Register they’ve shared their concerns with Border Patrol administrators.

Still, neither of them has promised any sort of action.

Portman remains unresponsive.

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