When people attempt to cross the border illegally, they must first survive the journey to get there. They face getting lost, being without food and water, being extorted, getting caught and arrested. Sometimes, however, when they do accomplish arriving on U.S. land, their survival is still at jeopardy, even more so than before.
A New York Times story recounts how, in 2014, three women from Honduras survived their long and painful road to the U.S., hoping to find a border agent in order to be processed and remain in the country. But instead of finding a border agent that would help three women traveling alone, he violently assaulted and raped them.
The women, two teens and the mother of one of them, told their painful and harrowing story of the night they encountered Esteban Manzanares, a border patrol agent that found them and changed their lives forever. One of them said they could tell something was wrong by the way he was breathing.
“I pretended,” she said, according to the Times. “I tried to be strong.”
The rest of the details are horrific. He tied them up, molested them, took pictures of them, left them for dead, and raped at least one of them. The only reason Manzanares stopped is because authorities showed up at his door and he ended up killing himself. He left a suicide note that said: “I am sorry for what I have done…I am a monster.”
The note also spoke to Manzanares’ trauma that he suffered while serving in the military in Afghanistan. As the Times report, a lot of the men working as border patrol agents, and in immigration, have previously served in the military, which speaks to their mental state once they take on a new role back in the U.S.
According to the Times, agents have to undergo a background check and lie detector test before beginning their new job, but the civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the women will force the agency to look at their hiring practices. It’s no secret that Trump has fueled immigration detainments and arrests, which in turn has put pressure on agencies to fill these roles especially as border agents quickly.
Tragically, the story of how these three women survived being attacked once they arrived in the U.S. isn’t new. In the past two years we’ve seen story after story of how border agents, ICE, and other immigration officials have violently hurt and even killed women who are just trying to find a better life in the U.S. The lawsuit filed against border patrol will hopefully shed light on the men who are supposed to protect our border and also the growing trend of agents being violent against undocumented people.