The University of Texas at El Paso had no policies governing the selection of research fellows when two controversial former Border Patrol officials were given those titles earlier this year, UTEP officials said.

The Center for Law and Human Behavior, which appointed former Border Patrol officials Tony Barker and Jeffrey Self as research fellows, also hasn’t filed annual reports summarizing its activities required by the university.

Victor Manjarrrez Jr.

The revelations were made in response to open records requests from El Paso Matters. When asked for policies regarding research fellow appointments at the center, and for accountability reports the center was required to file, UTEP officials said they “had no information responsive” to the requests.

Barker and Self were named as research fellows in January by Victor Manjarrez Jr., also a retired Border Patrol official and the director of the Center for Law and Human Behavior. The appointments were withdrawn and information about Barker and Self was scrubbed from the center’s website a month later amid questions from El Paso Matters and objections from at least one UTEP alumnus.

Barker resigned from the Border Patrol in October 2022 as he was being investigated for allegations of sexual harassment by the Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Officials for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, haven’t disclosed the status of the investigation.

Self, who retired from the Border Patrol in 2020, played a key role in the earliest stages of what became the Trump administration’s efforts to separate migrant children from their parents after crossing the border. 

Emails obtained by El Paso Matters show that Manjarrez offered Barker an unpaid research fellow position in December 2022 to make him “less risky” for other universities interested in hiring him. Manjarrez has said he wasn’t aware of the sexual harassment allegations against Barker when he offered the research fellowship. 

The research fellow positions were unpaid, but UTEP hasn’t provided any job description or other documents that described the responsibilities and expectations for the positions.

UTEP officials and Manjarrez did not respond to El Paso Matters questions about the lack of policies for appointing research fellows, or the failure by the Center for Law and Human Behavior to submit annual reports on its activities.

Instead, UTEP issued a statement praising its research centers.

“Research centers at the University of Texas at El Paso exist to further our mission advancing discovery of public value that positively impacts the health, culture, education and economy of the community we serve. Committed to UTEP’s mission, our numerous and diverse centers are conducting amazing research every day,” the statement said.

UTEP research centers are required by the university to submit annual reports on “activities and accomplishments,” “total research expenditures and the ratio of grant-funded expenditures to non-grant-funded expenditures;” and “alignment of the center’s goals with the mission of the university.”

El Paso Matters asked UTEP for copies of reports filed by the Center for Law and Human behavior since the 2019-2020 school year, but UTEP said it had no such reports.

Manjarrez, who has been the center’s director since 2020, was required to submit his reports to Roberto Osegueda, UTEP’s vice president of research and sponsored projects. 

Osegueda, who is stepping down as vice president at the end of April, did not respond to a question from El Paso Matters on how he determined the center’s alignment with UTEP’s mission if it didn’t file required reports.

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.