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Border Patrol to investigate quota allegations at Riverside office

Agency officials, immigrant rights groups and the union representing agents all have decried the alleged policy requiring agents to arrest at least 150 illegal immigrants in January.

February 03, 2009|David Kelly

The U.S. Border Patrol vowed Monday to investigate allegations of a quota system at its Riverside office, which allegedly required agents to arrest a set number of illegal immigrants each month or face punishment.

"The Border Patrol has never had a quota system and is not expected to operate on quotas," said Agent Richard Velez, an agency spokesman. "Right now these allegations are under investigation. We will soon find out what happened."

The issue surfaced last week when some of the office's nine agents told their union representative that they were ordered to make 150 arrests in January or risk having their job schedules rearranged, said Lombardo Amaya, president of Local 2554 of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents the Riverside office.

"Quotas are unfair," Amaya said. "You cannot tell my members that they need to generate this number of apprehensions and if they don't, they don't get their days off or they get their shift changed. I have received complaints from almost the entire office."

On Monday, Amaya met with Jeffrey Calhoon, chief patrol agent for the El Centro Sector, which oversees Riverside, to discuss the situation.

Calhoon "said he did not impose any quota and that quotas were against policy," Amaya said. "He said the 150 was a goal, not a quota, and that there was a miscommunication. He said he would conduct an investigation and we as a union will wait for the outcome."

Calhoon did not respond to calls for comment.

Immigrant rights groups say the Border Patrol has been especially active in the Riverside area in recent weeks, making arrests at day labor sites, including 11 last week near a Home Depot.

The incident sparked a protest in Riverside on Friday.

"It is very concerning to us and we will do our own investigation to see what happened," said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

"I do believe a quota system is in place. We had this suspicion before but I think it has been confirmed," he said. "I am not a legal expert, but I think the Border Patrol is supposed to be on the border. I can't tell you for sure that what they are doing is illegal, but what is illegal is racial profiling and that's what's happening in the Inland Empire right now."

Alvarado's group plans to hold a news conference Thursday and a protest Saturday in Riverside.

Velez, the Border Patrol spokesman, said enforcement activities are not confined to border areas. The operations in Riverside, he said, were part of the normal duties of agents wherever they are.

"One of the main focuses of the Border Patrol is to enhance the quality of life and that means removing criminal aliens and illegal aliens," he said. "It's a federal mandate. It's not a new effort. The Riverside station has been there since 1967."

Amaya, the union leader, said agents told him that they were told that if quotas weren't met, they might no longer get weekends off or be put on the midnight shift.

"They had operations over the last two weeks where they apprehended 130 illegal aliens and 71 were criminal aliens," he said. "The union doesn't have a problem with that. Just don't threaten us with a quota or a goal. We are and should remain focused on high-profile cases and apprehending" criminals.

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david.kelly@latimes.com

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