Texas deputy calls seizure of immigrants’ cash by sheriff’s office ‘standard operating procedure’


The Texas Tribune reports two 2021 incidents where cash and even a truck were stolen from undocumented immigrants. Money and the vehicle were taken during the first incident in May 2021. “The seized money was to be filed as abandoned cash and deposited into the Real County general fund,” the report said.

During the second incident the following October, more than $2,700 in cash was stolen from three men before they were turned over to Border Patrol. One deputy has since told officials investigating Johnson that robbing undocumented immigrants “has been standard operating procedure for as long as he has been employed by the Real County Sheriff’s Office.” 

The report said that Texas Ranger Ricardo Guajardo has “accused Johnson of felony-level theft by a public servant and abuse of official capacity.” But this is far from the first time officials have targeted immigrants.

In 2018, Customs and Border Protection officials stole more than $41,000 from a registered nurse who had planned to open a medical clinic in Nigeria. Anthonia Nwaorie, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Nigeria, had said she didn’t know she had to report the cash. Officials held onto the money for months, saying they’d return it only if she agreed not to sue. She sued anyway. Officials finally returned her money to her, but not before holding onto it for months.

“Civil asset forfeiture laws are mostly terrible,” Daily Kos’ Walter Einenkel wrote in 2017. “The ‘war on drugs’ has not been won, and time and time again we read about how egregious and abusive the application of civil asset forfeiture is when employed by our law enforcement agencies. Loopholes are created to ensure that even somewhat positive outcomes in civil forfeiture laws are corrupted.”

“The real criminals at the border are white supremacist cops,” tweeted Human Rights Watch researcher Ari Sawyer in response to The Texas Tribune report. “This sheriff is racially profiling people in an illegal effort to target and terrorize vulnerable migrants and is also flat out stealing from them to boot. When will DOJ @CivilRights step in?”

The Real County sheriff’s office’s blatant thievery also comes as right-wing Republican Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star scheme faces a Title VI discrimination complaint about targeting Black and Latino asylum-seekers. “Arrest records show profiling based on race and national origin, including with numerous descriptions of observing or receiving reports of ‘undocumented migrants,’” civil rights organizations said in the complaint.

Tragically, a number of soldiers involuntarily tied to Abbott’s Operation Lone Star scheme have died. “Army Times previously reported a series of suicide deaths linked to the mission, whose soldiers are suffering from issues with living conditions and pay,” the outlet said.

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