6:20 p.m. Feb. 6: This story has been updated with comments from the University of Texas at El Paso and from the director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior.
4 p.m. Feb. 7: This story has been updated to include a second research fellow being removed from the website of the Center for Law and Human Behavior.
A former Border Patrol official reportedly facing allegations of sexual improprieties has been listed in recent days as a “research fellow” on the University of Texas at El Paso’s website, though university officials say he was never an employee.
UTEP officials said the former official, Tony Barker, was improperly listed as a researcher for the university by a program director who also is a former Border Patrol official.
“Dr. Tony Barker is not or has never been an employee of UTEP,” Lucas Roebuck, UTEP’s vice president for marketing and communications, said in a prepared statement.
Roebuck later sent another statement from Victor Manjarrez Jr., the director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior, who said he listed Barker as a research fellow without approval.
“In early January, I listed Tony Barker as a research fellow on the Center for Law and Human Behavior (CLHB) website. My actions were not approved by UTEP. While he was listed on the website, Dr. Barker has never been an employee at UTEP. I am working with the UTEP administration to review the CLHB research fellowship program procedures to ensure University policies are followed in the future,” Manjarrez said in the statement.
He said he was unaware that Barker was the subject of an internal investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection until the weekend, when El Paso Matters raised questions about Barker’s fellowship with UTEP officials.
UTEP began scrubbing references to Barker from its website Monday morning.
Border Patrol investigation
NBC reported in January that Barker is facing an internal investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of allegations that he pressured a subordinate into having sexual relations. Three other women have come forward with similar accusations, according to NBC. Barker has denied the allegations.
The New York Times reported that the allegations against Barker surfaced as he was being considered last year for a top position in the Border Patrol. He left the Border Patrol on Oct. 14, an agency spokesperson told the Times. His last assignment was as acting chief of the Border Patrol’s law enforcement operations directorate.
“The allegations that I pressured any woman for sexual favors or victimized them are entirely and unequivocally false,” Barker said in a statement to the New York Times in January. “I am proud of my 21 years of service with the U.S. Border Patrol. I am now taking this time to focus on my family and seek other opportunities.”
CBP spokesperson Justin Long told the Times that the agency, which includes Border Patrol, refers any allegations of misconduct for investigation.
“We do not tolerate misconduct within our ranks,” he said.
But Jenn Budd, a retired Border Patrol agent, said such investigations are not independent or focused on protecting victims and punishing offenders. She has become a vocal critic of the Border Patrol and CBP, which she accuses of fostering “rape culture.”
“The American public will not know anything” of the outcome of the investigation of the accusations against Barker, Budd said. “They will not even tell you if they discipline him for this because of his privacy. The system is corrupt from the get-go.”
Budd said the culture starts with top managers.
“Typically, they’ll say, I know how hard it is to be a female Border Patrol agent here. I’m not that kind of guy. Let me help you out,” and then victimize women, she said.
Barker at UTEP
At UTEP, Barker was one of two research fellows at the Center for Law and Human Behavior Monday morning. The other, Jeffrey Self, also is a former senior Border Patrol leader. Manjarrez, the center’s director, retired from the Border Patrol after serving as sector chief in Tucson and El Paso, two of the agency’s most important regions.
Roebuck, UTEP’s vice president for marketing and communications, hasn’t responded to a question on whether Self was selected by Manjarrez as a research fellow through a process similar to that used for Barker. However, Self’s information was removed from the center’s website sometime Tuesday.
According to reporting by Caitlin Dickerson in The Atlantic, Self took the initiative in 2017 to start what turned out to be a pilot test of family separation by the Border Patrol in the El Paso area. The Trump administration expanded the program across the southern border in 2018, but soon abandoned it amid a massive public outcry.
UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior was founded in 2010 with an original focus on detainee interrogation research, according to a video Manjarrez posted last year.
Barker was listed on the center’s website as “homeland security enterprise policy expert.”
“Along our southwest border, we are experiencing a global migration at a volume and complexity that has never before been seen. Dr. Tony L. Barker is a subject matter expert in developing and innovating complex operational strategies and process designs to address these various factors, some of which are currently being utilized to address migration flows along our borders today,” the website said.
Barker completed his doctoral dissertation in June with Capella University.