CBP officers say they were directed to target nonwhite travelers at Blue Water Bridge

Posted at 9:19 AM, Apr 02, 2021

(WXYZ) — Three men are suing the Department of Homeland Security for discriminating against non-white travelers on the basis of race.

Johnny Grays, Mikal Williams and Jermaine Broderick, Sr. are all Black men who are employed as Customers and Border Protection officers at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron.

The lawsuit states that this location employs about 275 CBP officers. Currently, there are only Black officers stationed at Port Huron. According to the lawsuit, supervisory and managerial officers are almost exclusively white.

Grays, Williams and Broderick claim that they were subjected to a hostile work environment based on race in that they were told to discriminate and harass travelers who are Black.

In addition, they say they were subjected to harassment and a difference in treatment on the basis of race. When they lodged complaints, they say they were retaliated against.

According to the lawsuit, CBP officers allegedly target non-white travelers for additional inspections based only on race. This scrutiny was reportedly not applied to white travelers and violates CBP policy on racial profiling.

The lawsuit cites a specific example of such an incident in February 2020, where 17 U.S. citizens of color were returning from Toronto in two cars. They were reportedly treated without respect and insulted by CBP officers at Blue Water Bridge due to their race.

Grays requested that the officers who engaged in this behavior receive disciplinary counseling. According to the lawsuit, the counseling never happened.

Grays, Williams and Broderick also outlined several instances of harassment against them while they were working.

In one incident detailed in the lawsuit, on June 6, 2020, a CBP officer told Grays that because of the way his hair looked, if he changed into civilian clothes, he could "blend in with [Black] protesters" and that he should "tell the protesters your name is Indike Mfufu," a sterotypically African-sounding name.

Grays, Williams and Broderick complained of discrimination they witnessed and experienced and filed complaints with the agency's Equal Employment Opportunity Office.

According to the lawsuit, they were almost immediately retaliated against after filing their complaints.

On April 8, 2020, Grays was allegedly ordered to bring in a doctor's note for one day of sick leave, despite it being his regularly scheduled day off. When Grays asked about the breach of protocol, the superior officers allegedly subjected him to aggressive, unwanted touching.

The superior officers initiated an investigation into Grays' behavior during the time of the incident, and he was subsequently placed on desk duty. Eleven months later, the internal investigation is ongoing and Grays has remained on desk duty, where he says he still experiences harassment and retaliation.

Grays, Williams and Broderick say they sustained loss of earnings, career opportunities and other benefits due to this treatment, along with physical and emotional distress.

CBP released this statement in response to the lawsuit:

As a matter of policy, CBP does not comment on pending litigation. Lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.