Sunday, February 26, 2023

He deported thousands of people, then learned he was undocumented. A New perspective....says he realizes he also gained something surprising after that moment when he learned he wasn’t a US citizen.

How long has DHS and CBP known?  
DoD when conducting a security clearance?

Known until the purpose was no longer any use?

BEMA International

Raul Rodriguez, a former US Customs and Border Protection officer, has been fighting deportation after investigators discovered he wasn't a US citizen

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Published 8:24 AM EST, Sun February 26, 2023

San Benito, TexasCNN — 
Raul Rodriguez says he’ll never forget the moment he realized his life was built on a lie.
He was so shaken that he felt the blood rushing to his feet. In a matter of seconds, a family secret had shattered the way he saw the world and his place in it.
“That day will never leave my mind. … It’s a terrible feeling,” he says.
It all began in April 2018 when federal investigators showed him a shocking document: a Mexican birth certificate with his name on it.
A conversation with his father soon afterward confirmed what Rodriguez had feared as soon as he saw the paperwork. The US birth certificate he’d used for decades was fraudulent. 
Rodriguez wasn’t a US citizen. He was an undocumented immigrant.
Rodriguez says he had no idea he’d been born in Mexico before his father’s confession that day, but he knew immediately how serious the situation was. He’d spent nearly two decades working for the US government at the border.
By his estimates, he’d helped deport thousands of people while working for US Customs and Border Protection and before that, for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Suddenly, he found himself on the opposite end of the spectrum, fighting for a chance to stay in the United States.
He lost so much so quickly after that: his job at CBP, his friends in law enforcement, his sense of self. He hasn’t seen his father since that day in April 2018 and says he never wants to speak with him again.
But now, nearly five years later, Rodriguez, 54, says he realizes he also gained something surprising after that moment when he learned he wasn’t a US citizen.
“It started off as a nightmare,” he says. “But then it turned out to be – holy moly – this is what I was meant to do.”
For Rodriguez, a journey began that day. And it’s ended up somewhere he didn’t expect.
She heard his story and reached out to help
At first, Diane Vega couldn’t believe the words she saw in her Facebook feed.
In her advocacy work helping deported veterans and veterans at risk of deportation as vice president of Repatriate Our Patriots, she’d seen first-hand how cruel and confusing the US immigration system can be. 
But this was unlike any story she’d heard before – “somebody who thought they were born here, who was raised here, who served in the military and then who was told, ‘you’re not American. And how, she wondered, could someone who’d worked for CBP be facing deportation?
Vega, who’s based across the state in El Paso, Texas, wasn’t the only one surprised by the story of the former immigration inspector who’d learned he was undocumented. Rodriguez’s plight caught the attention of local and national media.
Many responses to the coverage were unsympathetic, Vega says, especially in border communities.
“They’d say, ‘This is what you get for going against your own people.’”
But Vega saw the story another way.
She’d served in the military. Rodriguez had, too. Before his career working for CBP and its predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Rodriguez was in the Navy. He served from 1992 to 1997 and was stationed in Jacksonville and San Diego, with deployments in Iceland and the Persian Gulf as a member of the Navy’s military police.

As a master-at-arms in the Navy, Rodriguez says he was often tasked with taking fellow sailors to the brig. He's proud of his military service and hoping to do more to help veterans.
Anyone who’s served in the military, Vega says, knows what it’s like to have to follow orders and put your personal feelings aside. And to her, Rodriguez’s work at CBP was no different.
“It was his job,” she says. “Some jobs are not the best, but we all have to follow orders. … It was always for the defense of this country. It was for the intent of taking care of the United States and its people.”
So when others were turning away from Rodriguez, Vega reached out.
In their first phone conversation, she heard how alone he sounded.
“Those that he thought were his brothers turned their back on him,” she says.
‘He couldn’t travel outside his own backyard’
Anita Rodriguez tears up as she recalls those days.
It was devastating, she says, to watch her husband spiral into depression as he lost the support of so many people and institutions he’d counted on.
“There’d be some days when I’d leave the house and wonder, ‘Is he going to be OK when we come home? What are we going to find?’” she says, her voice cracking with emotion.
Anita Rodriguez works for US Citizenship and Immigration Services and met her husband when they were both training to be inspectors for the immigration agency then known as INS.
Since then, she’d seen him dedicate so many years to his job, and earn high accolades, too. In 2006, officials flew him to Washington to receive an integrity award for his work in a smuggling bust.
The past few years, she says, have brought their family a dramatically different reality.
“He’d been all over the world for the US,” she says, “and yet he couldn’t travel outside his own backyard. He couldn’t go past a (Border Patrol) checkpoint.”
Rodriguez knew deportation to Mexico would mean leaving his wife, four children and five grandchildren behind, and leaving home wasn’t worth the risk.
As he fought for the chance to stay with his family, people he once considered colleagues became people he feared.
He lost his identity when he lost his job
Rodriguez says years of federal background checks never turned up his Mexican birth certificate. It only came to light when Rodriguez filed a visa application for his brother.
Records show prosecutors declined to pursue a case against Rodriguez after investigators from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General couldn’t find any proof that he’d knowingly submitted a fraudulent birth certificate to the government. That meant he wouldn’t face criminal charges, but his job was still in jeopardy.
After placing him on leave during the investigation, Rodriguez says CBP fired him in 2019 because he wasn’t a US citizen and therefore no longer met the requirements to work as an officer.
“Anything that I ever did revolved around law enforcement. I lost everything. … That’s who I thought I was. That was my identity.
Raul Rodriguez, former CBP officer who learned he was undocumented
In a statement to CNN, CBP said Rodriguez is no longer employed by the agency but declined to comment further on his case.
“All allegations involving CBP employees are handled in a uniform manner in accordance with applicable Department of Homeland Security Policy,” the statement said.
Soon after losing his job, Rodriguez got a tattoo on his left arm. It shows a Mexican flag splitting his CBP badge in two.
“Being a Mexican citizen,” Rodriguez says, “broke my career and tore it apart.”
Rodriguez is no longer working and relies on the disability benefits he receives due to a head injury sustained during his time in the Navy.
He remains proud of the integrity award he won on the job. He still has it on a shelf in his living room. And he keeps a photo of him shaking the CBP commissioner’s hand that day on his phone.
But he says many of the friends he thought he’d made during his years at the agency have disappeared.
“They abandoned me because they thought I was illegal,” he says.
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