Former border agent says he was fired for drug-war comments
A former U.S. Border Patrol agent says he was fired for expressing his opinions on the drug war in Mexico while on the job.
Bryan Gonzalez, the former agent, alleges in a lawsuit filed last week that he was fired for telling a fellow agent that the drug-related violence in Mexico would end if the United States legalized drugs. He made the comments in April 2009 during a patrol along the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico.
According to the complaint, available here, Gonzalez's remarks prompted an internal affairs investigation at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in El Paso, which found that he held "personal views that were contrary to the core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication, and esprit de corps."
The suit names his former supervisor and was filed in U.S. District Court in West Texas.
Gonzalez's case, in which he is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico, has been publicized by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group that supports drug legalization. A press officer at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in El Paso declined to comment on the Gonzalez complaint, citing the pending litigation.
Gonzalez's case could prove "tricky" in court because he was fired one month before his two-year probationary period as an agent was to end, Micah McCoy, a spokesman for the ACLU in New Mexico, said in a telephone interview. Yet the ACLU is convinced Gonzalez's 1st Amendment rights were violated, he said.
"I think it was very clear that he was being fired simply because of the content of his political opinions. There was no misconduct or anything else cited in his termination. It was very explicitly chalked up to opinions that they considered contrary to the core beliefs of the Border Patrol," McCoy said. "Bryan Gonzalez, our plaintiff, would disagree with that strongly. His belief would be that having an opinion is very patriotic."
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: Former U.S. Border Patrol agent Bryan Gonzalez, right, at his academy graduation.