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NM Border Agent Whistleblower Suit Highlights “Shotgunning”

January 26, 2009

Albuquerque, NM – Border Agent whistleblowers are back in their regular jobs this week, after being stripped of their badges for testifying about the alleged practice of "shotgunning traffic," described by them as stopping vehicles without reasonable suspicion. The ACLU had filed suit to get the agents reinstated, and their chief re-badged them before the case went to trial.

ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson says attorneys researching the case discovered that there are likely more victims of the special patrols who are afraid to speak up, even though he says the practice is clearly unconstitutional.

"What they were looking for was 'brown and northbound.' In many instances, those pulled over without reason are probably immigrants of some variety, documented or undocumented."

One of the agents who did speak up has a relative who was arrested during one of the patrols near Rodeo. He and the other agent found inconsistencies in the arrest report and concluded they were intended to cover up the fact that the relative was stopped without reasonable suspicion. A judge agreed and the case was thrown out.

Simonson says Border Agents can, and should, enforce and uphold laws while abiding by the Constitution.

"I would think people would find it just inherently offensive, the notion that police were setting themselves up along the side of the road and stopping every car with a dark-skinned driver in it."

Supporters of the targeted traffic patrols insist they are carried out within the law, and are important tools to crack down on illegal immigration and to catch drug dealers.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - NM