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Creepy Border Patrol Agent Spies on Female Employees Undressing in Bathroom

The agent has been indicted for video voyeurism and lying to investigators, and has been placed on non-work status.

by Meredith Hoffman
Mar 27 2015, 11:00pm

Getty Images/Robert E Daemmrich

A male Border Patrol supervisor has been indicted for repeatedly filming his female employees undressing and using the bathroom, highlighting gender concerns in an agency currently pushing to hire more women. 

The agent, Armando Gonzalez, allegedly filmed the women over the course of nine months in Chula Vista, California, in 2013, and then he falsely told officials he'd installed the camera to catch agents using drugs, Homeland Security officials told VICE News. Gonzalez has been indicted for video voyeurism and lying to investigators, and has been placed on non-work status, Border Patrol agent Tim Hamill told VICE News.

The indictment comes after the Border Patrol recently launched a new recruitment drive to employ more women, who currently compose just 5 percent of the force, experts told VICE News. Customs and Border Protection held a 10-day recruitment blitz targeting only women in December, and is striving for most of its 1600 new agents hired this fiscal year to be females. 

The push is partly a response to the influx of women and children migrants who have been crossing the border, Border Patrol Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske told Federal News Radio.

"Many females, once recruited, if they get through the academy quickly, move on to other agencies or they quit because they can't stand the gender discrimination."

But Lee Maril, a professor at Eastern Carolina State University who has written multiple books about the Border Patrol, told VICE News the agency suffers severe gender discrimination that keeps women out of the force - and he said the videotaping incident was "not surprising at all."

"They're looking at this as a recruitment problem rather than an employment problem or a retention problem...They're looking at the wrong issues," Maril said. "They're not looking at hostility because of gender; they're looking at numbers."

Maril, who has interviewed dozens of women in the agency for his research, said many border patrol stations had "a history of systemic discrimination against female agents." One whistleblower told Maril her colleagues and employers had targeted her for nearly ten years, giving her inferior equipment, placing her in the worst work shifts, and making fun of her. Most women received no mentors and faced harsher treatment as they went through the Border Patrol academy as well, he said.

"Many females, once recruited, if they get through the academy quickly, move on to other agencies or they quit because they can't stand the gender discrimination," Maril said. 

But Juanita Molina, executive director of the immigrant rights group Border Action Network, told VICE News the current recruitment push was the most robust she had seen in her 10 years monitoring the situation, and that it was desperately needed.

Related: US Border Patrol Caught More Non-Mexicans Than Mexicans for the First Time Ever in 2014

"When we see the influx of women and children from Central America it's only logical to add more women agents...Most of these women have been abused and the perpetrators have been men," Molina told VICE News of the migrants.

Still, she said the agency struggles with a whole culture of targeting women, whether agents or migrants. A Border Patrol agent even kidnapped and raped two young girls and a woman from Honduras last year, Molina recalled.

"You see something so horrifying and know there's a whole culture accompanying it," Molina said of the extreme example.

Victor Manjarrez, a former Border Patrol agent who now works with the National Center for Border Security & Immigration at the University of Texas, El Paso, said abuses were not that common.

"I would get the sense females felt they had to work harder, but not that they faced harassment," Manjarrez told VICE News. He said the filming incident did not surprise him simply because "nothing surprises" him after all the years he's worked in law enforcement.

"I'm disappointed as all Hell. It tarnishes the badge of the profession," Manjarrez said of the incident.

Related: US Drone Border Patrol Program a Huge Waste of Money, Homeland Security Report Reveals

Hamill maintained that the videotaping spoke to no greater culture in the agency. Gonzalez was arrested by the FBI on March 6 after San Diego police completed an investigation into the videotaping in January.

"It was a standalone incident," Hamill told VICE News.

"All Customs and Border Protction employees are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner while on or off duty," the agency said in a press statement. "CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of its mission. The overwhelming majority of CBP employees perform their duties with honor and distinction and work tirelessly every day to keep the country safe."

Border Patrol did not return requests for further comment about its female recruitment push.

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman