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Congress Wants DEA Answers

Congress Wants DEA Answers

On April 15, DEA agents seized $16,000 in cash from Joseph Rivers, a young African-American man who was traveling on an Amtrak train from Michigan to Los Angeles to film a music video

CapitolDome-1ABQ FREE PRESS STAFF REPORT

New Mexico Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham today joined with other members of Congress to demand details of how the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration selects people to be questioned about whether they are carrying drugs or cash.

A report by the agency’s  Inspector General states that such “cold consent” encounters can raise civil rights concerns, and the Department of Justice itself recognizes that “cold consent” encounters are more often associated with racial profiling than contacts based on previously acquired information.

While not solely attributed to “cold consent” searches, as stated in the letter, “…from 2009-2013, DEA interdiction Task Force Groups seized $163 million in 4,138 individual cash seizures.  21 percent of these seizures were contested and in 41 percent of those contested cases all (or a portion) of the seized cash was returned – a total of $8.3 million.”

On April 15, DEA agents seized $16,000 in cash from Joseph Rivers, a young African-American man who was traveling on an Amtrak train from Michigan to Los Angeles to film a music video.  Mr. Rivers’ attorney states that agents boarded the train in Albuquerque and began asking various passengers where they were heading and why.

When Rivers replied that he was traveling to Los Angeles to film a music video, the agent asked to search his bag and Rivers complied.  Despite the cash being in a bank envelop and the agents’ phone call to Rivers’ mother, who corroborated his story, the agents seized all of the cash.  Rivers stated he was the only African-American passenger in his portion of the train and believes he was racially profiled.

Grisham was one of three members of Congress signing a letter to the DEA requesting information. The others were House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, and House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Ranking Member Sheila Jackson.

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Albuquerque’s definitive alternative newspaper publishing an inquisitive, modern approach to the news and entertainment stories that matter most to New Mexicans. ABQ Free Press’ fresh voice speaks to insightful and involved professionals who care deeply about our community.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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