A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer allegedly used a colleague’s computer login to sneak her undocumented housekeeper into Texas from Mexico after circumventing COVID-19 non-essential travel restrictions by scheduling an appointment for the woman to donate plasma at a clinic just over the U.S. border.
The officer, identified in a federal criminal complaint as Rhonda Lee Walker, is stationed in Laredo, TX. The woman Walker allegedly employed, identified in the complaint as Mexican citizen Yadira Yesenia Trevino-SanMiguel, does not have permission to work or reside in the U.S., the complaint says.
Criminal misconduct by U.S. border officers recently reached a five-year high, according to U.S. government data. The list of offenses ranges from assault and capital murder to fraud and corruption. Corruption is not a new issue for CBP—a 2015 audit found CBP officers are arrested for corruption at rates that “far exceed, on a per capita basis, such arrests at other federal law enforcement agencies.”
The investigation into Walker began in June 2020, when an anonymous caller told agents from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that Walker employed a live-in caretaker who was in the country illegally, says the complaint. OPR investigators kept Walker under surveillance for the next nine months, during which time they “observed an unidentified female conducting housekeeping and childcare duties,” it states. Trevino-SanMiguel also worked cleaning Walker’s mother’s house, OPR agents allege.
After agents flagged a Jan. 20 money transfer from Walker to Trevino-SanMiguel’s family in Mexico, they reviewed past surveillance video from the Laredo Port of Entry, where Walker was stationed. Footage from a few weeks earlier showed Walker meeting Trevino-SanMiguel halfway across a pedestrian bridge connecting Mexico and the U.S., and personally escorting her through the inspection area, the complaint says. Agents say they then observed Walker using another CBP officer’s computer login to scan Trevino-SanMiguel’s nonimmigrant visa and grant her entry into the country.
On Feb. 12, Trevino-SanMiguel once again attempted to cross into the States. But OPR agents intercepted her this time, and hauled her in for questioning. Under interrogation, Trevino-SanMiguel confessed that she had been working for Walker as a babysitter and housekeeper. When Walker was questioned by the OPR agents, she at first claimed that Trevino-SanMiguel was her aunt. However, Trevino-SanMiguel had already admitted that the two were not related.
Trevino-SanMiguel stayed at Walker’s home several days a week to take care of her children, depending on Walker’s work schedule, she told the agents. Walker is charged with making false statements, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Walker, who does not have a lawyer listed in court documents and was unable to be reached for comment, is due in court on Feb. 16.