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Border Patrol's second-highest official opts to retire amid sexual misconduct allegations

Joel Martinez became acting deputy chief of the Border Patrol in January. The allegations stem from his time working in the Laredo, Texas, border sector.
Customs And Border Patrol Keep Watch At U.S.-Canada Border
A U.S. Border Patrol agent.Scott Eisen / Getty Images file

The second-highest-ranking official in the U.S. Border Patrol has elected to retire amid allegations of sexual misconduct toward female Border Patrol employees, according to two sources familiar with his departure.

Joel Martinez, who assumed the role of acting deputy chief in January, is under investigation by Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility after multiple female employees accused him of sexual misconduct stemming from his time working in the Laredo, Texas, border sector, the sources said.

The sources familiar with Martinez’ exit said women allege that he made aggressive comments to them about his desire to have sex with them and that they felt threatened by him and pressured to have sex with him.

Joel Martinez, acting deputy chief of U.S. Border Patrol.
Joel Martinez, acting deputy chief of U.S. Border Patrol.CBP

The Washington Post was first to report that Martinez was suspended, but did not identify a reason.

Asked about Martinez, a CBP spokesperson told NBC News, “We do not tolerate misconduct within our ranks.”

“When we discover any alleged or potential misconduct, we immediately refer it for investigation and cooperate fully with any criminal or administrative investigations. This is the case whether the alleged misconduct occurs on or off duty. Federal privacy laws prohibit discussion of individual cases,” the spokesperson said. 

By retiring, Martinez would not be subject to professional repercussions from CBP’s OPR, and any findings would likely never be revealed unless the office made a criminal referral and the Justice Department decided to prosecute the case.

Just over a year ago, Tony Barker, the Border Patrol’s No. 3 in command, exited the agency after allegations arose that he had pressured an employee to perform sexual favors. Barker denied the allegations and called them “entirely and unequivocally false.”

A Border Patrol employee who alleged misconduct at the hands of Barker told NBC News on the condition of anonymity that the OPR does not go far enough to stop bad behavior because employees who are accused can simply exit the agency without having to face scrutiny for their behavior.