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Border Agent Arrested For Massive Cache of Child Porn, Hired By Immigrant Shelter To Work With Kids

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Published on: June 22, 2018

Brownsville, TX – A Border Patrol agent who was arrested on child pornography charges was given direct access to children when he was hired by an immigration shelter, according to reports detailing the conditions thousands of immigrant children are subjected to when they are separated from their parents and then detained in shelters across the country.

Ernesto Padron worked as a United States Border Patrol agent for 13 years, up until he was arrested on second-degree felony charges for possession and promotion of child pornography. Padron first landed on the FBI’s radar in 2008 when he engaged in a conversation with an undercover agent in an online chat room. He was eventually arrested by the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department and charged in 2010, and he immediately resigned from Border Patrol.

Padron’s home was raided, and his laptop and desktop computers were seized when he was arrested. Sheriff Omar Lucio told the Brownsville Herald, “Apparently he had been doing this for two or three years. As to the amount of material I’m not exactly sure, but it is a large amount.”

The case never went to trial, however, and the charges against Padron were eventually dropped—not because he was charged in error, but because an ongoing case backlog allowed the statute of limitations to expire. The backlog has impacted thousands of cases in Cameron County over the years, and is still ongoing, according to a report from KRGV News.

The district attorney in Cameron County at the time, Armando Villalobos, was later convicted of favoritism, improper influence, personal self-enrichment, self-dealing, concealment and conflict of interest for his role in a racketeering scheme involving bribery and extortion, and he was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2014.

Even though Padron’s case was dismissed, his record is still publicly available, and the fact that he was ever charged with and found in possession of child pornography should have raised major red flags when he applied to work for the non-profit organization, Southwest Key. He was hired anyway, and Texas Monthly reported that in his role as a case manager, Padron had “direct access to unaccompanied immigrant minors.”

Padron worked at the Casa Padre shelter in Brownsville, which currently houses more than 1,500 boys between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. Although it is unclear whether he abused or assaulted any of the young children during his employment, there have been a number of reports of child abuse in immigrant shelters across the country, which has increased speculation of the employees who are hired by the shelters.

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While the idea of innocent children being separated from their parents and treated like prisoners is troubling, it is not the worst fate many of the children are subjected to. The Health and Human Services Department recently admitted that nearly 1,500 immigrant children have gone missing, and many of them are suspected to have been kidnapped by human traffickers.

Southwest Key has attempted to defend its decision to hire Padron by claiming that the fact that he was never convicted of possessing child pornography made him eligible for employment. In a statement to Texas Monthly, Southwest Key spokesperson Lizzie Chen said, “In our hiring, extensive background checks are conducted on applicants; however, because Mr. Padron was not convicted of the charges you referenced (or any other disqualifying criminal charges), he was cleared for employment.

However, Chen noted that the organization was eventually alerted to Padron’s history in 2017, and he was suspended temporarily before he was fired along with nearly 1,000 other employees. “When we became aware of Mr. Padron’s situation, he was immediately suspended, and he never worked at our shelter again,” she said.

The case of Ernesto Padron is disturbing for a number of reasons—because an individual who is allegedly a pedophile with a history of promoting child pornography was never tried in court, and never received the sentence he may have deserved; because he could be one of many criminals who got away with abhorrent crimes while a county focused on nonviolent offenders and its district attorney engaged in bribery schemes; and because the overwhelming failure of the state led to an alleged pedophile having direct access to vulnerable children who were taken from their parents and treated like prisoners.

Article posted with permission from The Free Thought Project

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