Things That Matter

Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

On July 10, former senior Border Patrol agent Gus Zamora, 51, was arrested in Tuscon for sexually assaulting a junior agent. Zamora’s wife is Gloria Chavez, one of the agency’s highest-ranked female officers. Three weeks after he was indicted by a Pima County grand jury, the agency took the only action it has thus far: it allowed him to retire from the agency three weeks after being arrested. Customs and Border Protection defended its actions by telling The New York Times, it “holds its employees accountable and expects the entire workforce to adhere to the agency’s standards of conduct.” Zamora attended a pretrial hearing at the Arizona Superior Court in Tucson. He pleaded not guilty.

The victim, identified as R.W. in court documents, told police that she looked up to Zamora as a mentor, given their ten-year age difference and his seniority. Over the years, R.W. had ignored some of his advances, asserting her desire to remain friends. The night of the assault, they met up for dinner and Zamora bought her so many tequila shots, video surveillance shows her falling to her knees as Zamora brought her back to his hotel room where he would later sexually assault her.

Before their dinner, Zamora texted her to ask if she “dressed up” for him, according to The New York Times.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, Zamora bought them five rounds of tequila shots, and at one point, she moved away from him after he placed his hand on her left thigh. The Daily Mail reports that Zamora told investigators that he offered R.W. a ride home, to which she declined, saying she didn’t want to be alone. Zamora alleges that she initiated the sex. However, hotel surveillance footage shows Zamora holding R.W. up. At one point, she fell to her knees, according to police documents obtained by The New York Times. 

Those police documents detail how R.W. said she blacked out, only waking up a few times to find herself on the bed. She told police she didn’t feel like she had the capacity to give consent. The rape kit results have not been made public. 

A few days later, R.W. reported the crime to the police, who then recorded her follow-up call to Zamora.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, the detective on the case recorded a phone call during which R.W. informed Zamora that the sex was non-consensual. The detective wrote, “he told her to not go there and that it wasn’t like that,” that sex “was never on his mind. They had too many shots,” The New York Times reports. Effectively, Zamora tried to call him out and he just deflected the blame onto both of them. 

When Zamora was eventually called in for an interview, a detective told Zamora that R.W. was in no state to offer consent, to which he “said that he knows, but he wasn’t in a state to consent either,” according to The New York Times

Women make up 5 percent of Border Patrol agents.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

The female agents who do make up the force have voiced their outrage at the agency’s inaction around sexual assault accusations. “There’s not a single woman in the Border Patrol who has either not been sexually assaulted, outright raped or at the very least sexually harassed,” former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd told The New York Times. Budd’s since become an immigrant rights activist, and urges women to reconsider joining the Border Patrol.

Two days before Zamora allegedly assaulted R.W., Tucson police arrested Border Patrol agent Steven Charles Holmes, 33, for sexually assaulting three women over seven years. 

The agency is already under immense criticism for its high rate of arrest charges brought against Border Patrol agents when compared to other law enforcement agencies.

Credit: @CBP / Twitter

In July 2019, Quartz reported that Border Patrol agents are arrested approximately five times as often as other law enforcement groups. With a budget of over $15 billion and over 60,000 employees, it’s the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. Many critics say the agency is not held to account for its unconstitutional means of coercing migrants to sign removal forms written in English, a language they often cannot understand. 

A Customs Border Patrol spokesperson told El Paso Times that its Office of Professional Responsibility “will review all the facts uncovered to ensure all allegations of misconduct … are thoroughly investigated for appropriate action by the agency.”

READ: US Border Patrol Sent This Man And His Child Back To Mexico And Hours Later They Were Thrown Into Trucks And Abducted

Border Patrol Agents Threw Away Meaningful Items Belonging To Migrants, Now There’s An Art Show Displaying Dozens Of Items

Things That Matter

Border Patrol Agents Threw Away Meaningful Items Belonging To Migrants, Now There’s An Art Show Displaying Dozens Of Items

Tomkiefer.photographe / Instagram

Photographer Tom Kiefer worked as a custodian at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Southern Arizona from 2003 to 2014. When migrants and asylum seekers crossed the Southern border officials would throw away their belongings, medications, and nonessentials during processing. Kiefer collected all of those belongs, arranged them systematically, and photographed them.

The photos will be displayed in the exhibition “El Sueño Americano / The American Dream: Photographs by Tom Kiefer” at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. 

The result is eye-catching and colorful art that, upon closer inspection, reveals the rich inner lives of migrants. Kiefer’s photographs of the CDs they were listening to, the medications they were on, and even diary entries provide insight into the almost ordinariness of migrants. These were just people carrying things that meant something to them the way anyone else going somewhere would. Then the U.S. government deemed those personal and sentimental items trash. 

What Kiefer provides is a rarely seen snapshot of what migrants cared about when they came to the United States looking for a better shot. 

Kiefer was documenting American history through his lens and labor. 

“It was my way of documenting a piece of our nation’s history,” Kiefer told the Washington Post

In one of his haunting photos, there are 32 CDs lined up. Some CDs are from artists like Trapt but others are mixed CDs with intimate labels like “Brown Pride” or “Super Sappy Songs for Issa 2.” The image reminds the viewer that these migrants were real people — and we don’t know who any of them are and because of the United States’ ever-changing immigration policies, we don’t know if they’re even OK. 

Kiefer began to find the belongings when he asked if he could donate the canned goods that Border Patrol authorities seized to food pantries. He went through the trash bins to look for the nonperishables, but what he found instead was a wealth of humanity. 

“The Bibles, the rosaries, the family photographs. I was shocked,” he said. “And I didn’t know what to do, because it was obviously being condoned.”

Kiefer knew he would get into trouble if he took other items so everything he gathered was by intuition. Altogether in his years working there he collected 100,000 items. 

“I had to do it all very quick, discreet,” he said. “It was just rapid-fire, split-second decisions about what I could keep and what had to go in the trash, stay in the trash.”

Throwing away migrants’ possessions is particularly cruel, Kiefer feels.

 “[It] underscores the cruelty of the tentative punishment that the government feels the need to levy against these people. It’s clear the majority of which are decent, contributing and who want nothing more than a better life for themselves or for their family,” he told the Los Angeles TimesWhen Kiefer first began going through the trash looking for cans, he found mostly toothbrushes. However, when things appeared to be more personal like religious items and diaries, he felt compelled to save them because, he says, “no one would believe me if I had not collected these items.” He purposefully used colorful backgrounds to humanize the items. He didn’t want a cold, white background that would make things look sterile, more like products than personal items. 
“[The photos are] like a knife to the gut, and that’s precisely something that I think gives this work its power — that it draws you in with its beauty and then it has this really profoundly sad backstory,” Laura Mart, Skirball curator, told the Los Angeles Times.

He hopes the legacy of his exhibition is empathy above all else. 

“Dora the Explorer. A personal belonging carried by a migrant or someone seeking asylum. When apprehended by USCBP while crossing the desert most personal belongings considered non-essential or potentially lethal are confiscated and discarded,” Kiefer wrote in a caption of a children’s Dora the Explorer purse. 

Things like children’s toys, backpacks, and clothing items are enough to infuriate and sadden just about anybody.

“Whether it’s an individual object, shoelaces, I present them in a way that I hope the viewer can not just identify, but just kind of be empathetic, or put themselves in the person or persons’ shoes: ‘Wow, a person carried that.’ ‘That’s the same cologne I use, the same toothbrush or toothpaste,” Kiefer said. 

While he was a custodian during the Obama administration, Kiefer says he didn’t witness the abuses of powers reported under the current president. Kiefer personally condemns the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants and hopes his exhibition will change some peoples’ stances. 

“Is this the nation we want to be?” He said. “The way things are now is not sustainable.”

A Man From Texas Has Been Charged With Carving His Name Into His Girlfriend’s Forehead

Things That Matter

A Man From Texas Has Been Charged With Carving His Name Into His Girlfriend’s Forehead

@SAcurrent / Twitter

Domestic abuse, whether it entails physical violence or emotional abuse, continues to be a national crisis. Particularly among women of color and those who are undocumented. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence. The organization whose mission is to change the conditions that can lead to domestic violence such as patriarchy, privilege, racism, sexism, and classism, has also reported that in the United States an average of about 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. A new court case out of Texas is highlighting the severity of which these abusive relationships can excel to. 

WARNING: the details in this story are graphic and can be traumatizing or triggering to some.

Recently, police in Texas filed criminal charges against a man who allegedly used a knife to carve his name into his girlfriend’s forehead.

Police in Texas say that 19-year-old n was arguing with his girlfriend, 22- year-old Catalina Mireles when things became violent on December 5th. At some point in the argument, Hildreth is reported to have grabbed Mireles by the neck and then hit her in the face about 10 times. Soon after, a police affidavit says that he took hold of a knife and “carved his name onto her forehead.” Soon after, he fled from the apartment. He was arrested on Friday.

Mireles told the local police that she thought she was going to die. “He was going to put in the closet until he figured out what he was going to do with my body,” she told police.

According to KSAT,  Hildreth has a history of domestic and family violence. The police affidavit also stated that he had two outstanding warrants — one for burglary assault and another for assault of family assault. 

Pictures of Mireles after the assault, emerged on outlets such as The New York Post on Monday morning.

In the images, Mireles can be seen suffering from a black eye, with bruises across the side of her face, jaw, and lips and the name ‘Jack’ scratched into her head. 

Speaking to KSAT, Mirele’s mother said that her daughter was “scared for her life.” “He tried to kill her,” Mireles’ mother, Juanita Lopez, told the outlet. “I don’t ever want him to get out again — because he’s going to hurt someone else again.”

Hildreth was jailed on Sunday on a $75,000 bond.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages. Online chat is available 24/7/365 in Spanish. Get help without saying a word.

There are many ways that abuse can be identified. By the way your partner treats you physically, by the way, they treat you emotionally, and by how you feel about the relationship. This checklist of signs of abuse is one tool that you can use to see if you, or someone you know, is a victim of abuse.

And remember, more resources for dealing with abuse can be found by calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 799 7233.

1. They have grabbed you and refused to let go.

gabkaphoto / Instagram

This falls into the category of physical abuse. No-one should grab you to make you feel threatened and unsafe. No-one.

2. They have pulled your hair.

Instagram: @theerinblythedavis

This is another form of physical abuse. Sure, a bit of hair pulling in the act of passion is fine. But when it happens as part of an argument, or when your partner is deliberately trying to hurt you or make you feel threatened, that is abuse.

3. They have thrown things at you and/or destroyed your belongings.

Instagram: @beatfreak1996

One way your significant other may try to control you is through your belongings. Throwing things at you and destroying your belongings is designed to hurt you physically and emotionally. Threatening to do so also falls under this category of behavior, too.

4. They have left you with bruises, black eyes, bleeding, and/or broken bones.

Instagram: @veeegooose

While abuse doesn’t necessarily have to leave marks on your body, a sure sign of physical abuse in your relationship is when your partner does leave marks. Research shows that once it happens the first time, a “threshold” of sorts has been crossed, and an abuser is more likely to hurt their partner again.

5. They have threatened to hurt or kill you.

Instagram: @raquelitt

It may not seem like abuse, since there are no physical marks left from a threat to hurt or kill you. However, these threats are still part of the arsenal of tools that abusers use. How? Because these threats are designed to control your behavior, and make you feel powerless. Abuse in a relationship is about the abuser gaining and maintaining power, and death threats are a way of emotionally controlling you.

6. They have threatened to take your children away or harm them.

Instagram: @stephaniemaurasanchez

Even if you have children together, children shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in your relationship. Even more importantly, your children’s safety is non-negotiable: no partner of yours should threaten it. By the way, this doesn’t just apply to children. Pets can also be used to manipulate and control you in a relationship.

7. They have forced you to have sex.

Instagram: @jennylikesjewellery

Sex is not a “duty” to be fulfilled in a loving, equal relationship. Nor should your partner guilt trip or manipulate you into participating in sex acts after you have refused sex. Consent needs to be freely given! It doesn’t matter how long the two of you have been together. Otherwise, it’s classed as sexual assault.