U.S. Border Patrol Agent Marcos Gerardo Manzano Jr. zipped around the hills along the San Diego-Tijuana border pursuing illegal immigrants every day. But his hunt didn't extend, authorities allege, to the illegal immigrant living in his own home — his father.We should assume the son was born here and thus a citizen, but you never know. Wouldn't a background check on him have revealed his father was an illegal and therefore he might be a questionable hire?
Manzano's father, Marcos Gerardo Manzano Sr., was known as a Mr. Fix-it in his working-class San Diego neighborhood, who did painting and landscaping jobs for a few bucks. But authorities say Manzano Sr., 46, is a twice-deported illegal immigrant with a criminal record who may have been dealing drugs.
Three days after teams of heavily armed federal agents raided the home, the elder Manzano remains a fugitive. His son was charged with harboring illegal immigrants and lying to federal agents. Authorities and neighbors are trying to sort out if his alleged actions were an understandable though still illegal act of mercy, or part of a larger criminal enterprise.
The search of the house offered mysterious clues: Under a patio in the backyard, agents found a small room where an illegal immigrant was hiding. In the house, they also found 61 grams of methamphetamine along with drug paraphernalia and narcotics packaging material.
Manzano, 26, a three-year veteran of the agency who was arrested at work Monday night, made his initial court appearance Wednesday. He faces up to 10 years in prison and may lose his house to a criminal forfeiture.
Some neighbors expressed shock and sympathy for the young Manzano. To them, he was the hard-working young man who rose early every day to go to work in his neatly pressed green uniform. He faced an impossible quandary, some say, if his father came to him seeking shelter.
"What could he do? He's family," said neighbor Angelica Garcia. "It's very sad what happened."
But authorities said Manzano, as a federal officer, should have known better than to put himself in the position of housing an illegal immigrant, even if he was a family member. "His loyalty to his father was stronger than the loyalty to the Border Patrol, and that's the sad reality of it," said one federal law enforcement officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because agents are not authorized to speak with the media.
Manzano's case shares ironic circumstances with previous San Diego corruption cases. One Border Patrol agent convicted in 2006, Oscar Ortiz, turned out to be an illegal immigrant who presented a fraudulent birth certificate to get his job. Another agent accused of smuggling immigrants, Raul Villarreal, was a former agency spokesman who played the role of a Mexican smuggler in a Spanish-language public service announcement.H/T Jedi.