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Feds Draw More Fire On Handling Of Human Trafficking Cases

By Jack Douglas Jr., CBS 11 News
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A recently retired Dallas Police officer, with 32 years of law enforcement experience, has spoken out against the way some federal immigration agents handle human-trafficking cases in North Texas, adding to a chorus of criticism revealed only in a CBS 11 News investigation.

“They don’t take the time to look at everything,” retired lawman Joe Thompson told CBS 11’s investigative reporter Ginger Allen.

Thompson, who spent the last seven years with the Dallas Police Department as a vice and human-trafficking investigator, was referring to the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency in North Texas.

In an exclusive report last week, CBS 11 was told by two Fort Worth police officers that ICE declined to treat as a victim a young Honduran woman who was believed by others to have been taken to North Texas by an abusive trafficker.

The suspect, instead of being prosecuted as a trafficker, was deported back to Honduras. The suspect then re-entered the United States late last year, nearly catching up to the woman again in a different state until ICE agents there stepped in and rescued her.

While working as a DPD human-trafficking investigator, Thompson said he was repeatedly frustrated when he tried to get help from ICE agents in North Texas. Instead of treating the women as victims, according to Thompson, agents often treated them only as people who were in the country illegally.

“They get in too big of a hurry … they take somebody into custody, they talk to them for a few minutes, and then make their decision … Their decision is deportation,” Thompson told Allen.

Allen asked: “We’ve now heard from Fort Worth officers. You’re a former Dallas officer. Do you believe other agencies are equally frustrated with ICE?”

“They pretty much alienated every department,” Thompson replied.

ICE supervisors declined repeatedly to go on camera with CBS 11 News, or comment in any way on any specific case. Instead, they sent a statement –– the same one ICE sent last week –– saying, in part, that the agency “takes all suspected human trafficking cases very seriously.”

Ginger Allen’s report last week was based on her exclusive interview with veteran Fort Worth police officers Daniel Meza and Gabe Barrera, who until early last year were members of a multi-agency task force –– led by ICE –– that investigates human-trafficking cases in North Texas.

Only a short time before Allen’s report aired, ICE sent emails to CBS 11 News in an attempt to characterize Meza and Barrera as being disgruntled for their transfer out of the task force.

The Fort Worth Police Department also sent out a press release to North Texas media outlets that suggested the same thing –– even though Meza and Barrera’s supervisors were present during the interview and did not object at the time.

Efforts to discredit Meza and Barrera were greatly disputed Wednesday, when a rescued trafficking victim told CBS 11 News, in an exclusive interview, that she owes her life to both officers.

“They were the ones who rescued us,” she told Allen. “I thank them for me being here … because of them, I am alive …”

Asked where she feels she would be today if Meza and Barrera had not shown up that day in 2008, the woman simply replied: “I would be dead … I would be thrown away somewhere.”

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