TUCSON (CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union has taken on the case of two Border Patrol agents who say they were put on construction and maintenance duty in retaliation for speaking out against the practice of stopping vehicles without reasonable cause, or “traffic shotgunning” in Border Patrol lingo.
The federal lawsuit claims Juan Curbelo and William Leafstone – Border Patrol agents for 12 years – were stripped of their badges and guns after testifying at the hearing of Curbelo’s ex-wife, who was charged with possession and intent to distribute marijuana after an allegedly unjustified Border Patrol stop.
Juan Curbelo said he spoke up after noting numerous inconsistencies in the arrest report for his ex-wife, Concepcion Curbelo, who was stopped with their children near Rodeo, N.M., in December 2006. Curbelo’s daughter allegedly overheard agents telling the arresting officer to alter his incident report, which contained fabrications, including that the vehicle was “riding low,” in order to justify the stop.
When Juan Curbelo complained to superiors, he was told that he was jeopardizing his career, the complaint states. At his ex-wife’s trial, Agent Leafstone testified on the Border Patrol practice of “shotgunning traffic.”
After the drug charges were dropped in August 2007 due to lack of reasonable cause, Leafstone and Curbelo were stripped of their supervisory roles and ordered to turn in their badges and weapons. They were reassigned to a border-fence building crew. Curbelo also spent a stint in maintenance, which included such duties as unclogging sewage lines.
The New Mexico and Arizona chapters of the ACLU represent the agents, claiming constitutional violations. They demand an injunction reinstating them to their former positions.