Border agent called immigrants racist slurs in text messages

A Border Patrol agent in Arizona, who faces federal charges for allegedly hitting an undocumented immigrant with his truck, routinely used profanities and racist slurs to describe immigrants he apprehended at the border, according to federal court documents reported Sunday by the Arizona Daily Star.

Among a trove of text messages cited by prosecutors, Matthew Bowen called immigrants “disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling for a fire.” He also advocated for more violence toward migrants apprehended at the border, writing that President Donald Trump should “PLEASE let us take the gloves off.” 

Last year, Bowen was charged with striking Antolin Lopez Aguilar, a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, with his Border Patrol truck ― coming “within inches of running Lopez-Aguilar over,” according to a federal indictment.

Bowen was also charged with allegedly falsifying his report about the incident.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Bowen’s other text messages cited in the court filings include exchanges in which he jokes about violence toward migrants apprehended for illegally crossing the border.

In one conversation, an unidentified person texted Bowen: “Did you gas hiscorpse (sic) or just use regular peanut oil while tazing?? For a frying effect.”

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Bowen responded: “Guats are best made crispy, with olive oil from their native pais.” “Pais,” the Spanish word for “country,” is also “a derogatory term for Guatemalan citizens,” the Arizona Daily Star reported.

In several text messages, Bowen refers to the migrants as “tonks” or “toncs.” Some Border Patrol agents say that the term stands for “Territory of Origin Not Known” or “Temporarily Outside Native Country,” if officials cannot determine from what country the immigrant came, the Arizona Republic reported last year.

But others say that it’s a slur mimicking the sound of an apprehended migrant’s head being hit by a flashlight.

In other texts, Bowen also called undocumented immigrants “mindless murdering savages.”

Bowen’s lawyer Sean Chapman claimed that the denigrating language is “commonplace throughout the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, that it is part of the agency’s culture,” according to the court filings.

Officials for the Border Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.

Border Patrol officials told the Arizona Daily Star that agents are “held to the highest standards, and any action of misconduct within our ranks will not be tolerated.” They did not respond to Chapman’s claim that Bowen’s use of offensive language was “commonplace” among his fellow agents.

Read the full report from the Arizona Daily Star here.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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