Judge Finds Link Between Reward and Citizen's Stop

, New York Law Journal

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A border patrol agent checks a vehicle for people who are in the U.S. illegally.
A border patrol agent checks a vehicle for people who are in the U.S. illegally.

Both were under the command of Oaks and the Border Patrol's Buffalo Sector station, which is in charge of six offices in 25 counties and two states along the U.S.-Canadian border, Kahn said.

"It is entirely plausible that, if officers in one USBP [U.S. Border Patrol] Buffalo Sector station were induced by the Reward Policy to frequently arrest without probable cause, officers in another were as well," Kahn wrote.

Name Misspelled

Vazquez-Mentado was pulled over while driving with his wife and two children near his home in Oswego. Border Patrol agents Morgan Buitron and Javier Lorenzo, contended that he was Gerardo Vasquez-Mentado, who had been arrested in Texas in 1993 whom authorities believed to be in the U.S. illegally.

Agents ignored Vazquez-Mentado's protestations that, as his driver's license indicated, his name was spelled differently than the man they claimed they were seeking. Vazquez-Mentado's pistol permit also failed to convince them of his identity.

Vazquez-Mentado, who had been a U.S. citizen since 1998, was released about 90 minutes after his vehicle was pulled over when his wife brought his Naturalization Certificate and U.S. passport to the Oswego Border Patrol office.

Advocates for those in the United States illegally say Vazquez-Mentado's treatment reflects a Border Patrol policy of aggressively requesting to see the "papers" of people they stop near U.S. border areas on the unfounded suspicion of entering the country illegally.

Walter Ruehle, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Rochester who represents Vazquez-Mentado, said his client was "definitely pleased" with Kahn's ruling and hoped it strengthens his claim as the case moves toward trial.

David Irving of the Worker Justice Center of New York's office in Rochester is Ruehle's co-counsel.

Katherine Goettel of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Immigration Litigation in Washington is defending the Border Patrol.

According to the Brennan Center-Families for Freedom report, which was largely based on Border Patrol policy disclosures gleaned from earlier litigation, the reward program for agents began in 2003.

Cash bonuses for high arrest rates in the Buffalo sector ranged from $1,500 to $2,500 a year in 2009 to 2011. Agents also earned vouchers for up to $100 a piece for use at retailers such as The Home Depot, and they also could receive vacation time.

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