A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent has been convicted of demanding tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from undocumented immigrants.
Arnaldo Echevarria, 40, was found guilty of abusing his powers as a deportation officer to collect $78,000 over the course of three years from immigrants who were at his mercy. He was reported to have charged each undocumented immigrant between $7,500 and $16,000 to be placed on the “temporary protected status docket,” and temporarily avoid being separated from their families.
Echevarria was also accused of demanding sex from an alleged victim for her placement on the docket, but the jury ultimately found him to be not guilty on this count. He was, however, convicted of helping an undocumented immigrant enter the United States, whom he was also dating and employing to manage his side business.
“Echevarria’s girlfriend had entered the United States illegally, using the name and identification of an individual in Puerto Rico to obtain a Pennsylvania identification card” which Echevarria had procured for her, according to the US Attorney’s Office. Echevarria had promised to his ICE bosses in a written form that “there would be no conflicts of interest involving ICE matters” related to his side business.
Authorities have kept Echevarria’s victims anonymous, but all of them were reported to have lived in Monmouth County, New Jersey.
ICE has come under increasing fire by civil liberties activists during the Trump administration, as its officers have been caught by the media unlawfully detaining a U.S. citizen for years, arresting domestic violence victims at courthouses, and deporting scholarship students attempting to lawfully communicate with the agency about their status.
Activists fear that corruption cases like Echevarria may be happening all over the country, following President Trump’s order to hire an add an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 additional ICE officers. Corruption cases spiked after a similar hiring surge in 2006-2009, after which it was found that nearly 200 employees and contract workers in the Department of Homeland Security extorted approximately $15 million in bribes from undocumented immigrants.
Echevarria was ultimately sentenced to seven years in federal prison, with an additional three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to forfeit $75,000 of the money he extorted from his victims.
Nathan Wellman is a journalist from Los Angeles who has written for US Uncut and Grit Post. Follow him on Twitter: @LIGHTNINGWOW