U.S. Border Patrol agents who arrest immigrants in New York State get rewards like $100 Home Depot gift cards, extra vacations and cash bonuses, a new report found.
Some agents got as much as $2,500 a year each.
New York City immigrant advocacy group Families for Freedom and the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic sued under the Freedom of Information Act and discovered supervisors in the agency’s Buffalo sector, which extends across 29 counties in New York and Pennsylvania, gave out close to $1 million in cash awards to agents from 2003 to 2011.
“The whole notion of the incentive program is disturbing. But the cash part is crazy,” Abraham Paulos of Families for Freedom said Thursday.
“We have every reason to believe that this is going on everywhere else.”
The report was released days after a bi-partisan group of senators called for increased border enforcement, including drones, as part of an immigration reform package.
The agency’s cash rewards budget in Buffalo has soared in recent years, from a few thousand dollars in 2003 to $200,000 in 2011. Supervisors had a budget of $3,000 in 2011 just for gift cards, which they gave out as part of a program called “On-the-Spot Award,” the report found.
The groups also found agents from a single Border Patrol station in Rochester wrongfully arrested nearly 300 people between 2006 and 2011 who were actually here legally - some had green cards, some were U.S. citizens, others were just tourists.
Most of the wrongful arrests happened when agents stopped Greyhound buses or Amtrak trains - often travelling in the middle of the night to or from New York City - and asked everyone on board to show identification. The agency’s jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws extends 100 miles from the border.