Border Patrol chief related to convicted drug trafficker

EDINBURG — Border Patrol Chief Manuel Padilla held a mugshot Thursday afternoon of his younger brother, a convicted drug trafficker born in Mexico who has been deported several times.

“Wow, that’s eerie,” Padilla said as he looked at a recent jailhouse photo of his 45-year-old brother Miguel-Angel Padilla. “He looked a lot like me when he was young.”

It’s been years since Padilla, who heads the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, has seen or heard from him, but every five years during Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs review, his brother’s past comes back to haunt him.

“It’s part of maintaining a security clearance; you have to report these things,” Padilla said. “So he is already in my background investigations, and it comes up every five years, so it should be coming up here pretty quick.”

But this time his brother’s criminal past came up earlier than expected and in public. A letter dated July 26 from Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin senator and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked the Department of Homeland Security and the Inspector General to investigate Padilla and his brother, who was released from prison in 2013 after serving time for drug trafficking charges.

Miguel-Angel’s rap sheet dates back to 1990 in Santa Cruz, California, when he was convicted of forgery and spent two years in prison. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to four counts of robbery in Pima County and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

He was released in April 2013 and deported back to Mexico, according to Padilla, who recalled speaking to him that Thanksgiving. In December, Miguel-Angel was back in the United States attempting to smuggle about 84 pounds of marijuana past the Border Patrol checkpoint near Amado, Arizona. At the time of Miguel-Angel’s arrest, Padilla was the sector chief in Tucson.

“While the Committee is not aware of any direct evidence that Chief Patrol Agent Manuel Padilla took any action on behalf of his brother, the fact that his brother allegedly entered the country illegally during the time of Chief Patrol Agent Padilla’s leadership of the Tucson Sector raises concerns,” reads the letter from Sen. Johnson.

The letter also questions if Padilla had any influence on his brother’s immigration status and his brother’s whereabouts. Chief Padilla said the incident was thoroughly investigated when it happened and the findings showed he had no involvement or knowledge.

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