An LAPD Officer Was the ‘Immigrant Dream’ — Then His Life Changed at a Border Patrol Checkpoint

Mambasse Patara, a Marine and LAPD officer, says he had no idea his handyman was an undocumented immigrant when he drove through a Border Patrol checkpoint. He figured it was a simple misunderstanding, but prosecutors spent a year trying to send him to federal prison. (Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Mambasse Patara, a Marine and LAPD officer, says he had no idea his handyman was an undocumented immigrant when he drove through a Border Patrol checkpoint. He figured it was a simple misunderstanding, but prosecutors spent a year trying to send him to federal prison. (Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

When proponents of tougher enforcement talk about people coming to the U.S. “the right way,” they often describe immigrants like Mambasse Patara.

The 53-year-old Fontana resident entered the U.S. legally from Togo in 1999, then earned his citizenship by fighting in the Iraq war as a Marine. He has spent the last 12 years as a patrolman and traffic investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department.

But after nearly two decades of lawful contacts with immigration authorities, Patara found himself at odds with the U.S. Border Patrol last year when he was stopped at a checkpoint in Pine Valley, some 50 miles east of San Diego.

Patara says he had no idea the two men in his car — one a neighborhood handyman he’d known for years — were in the country without legal authorization.

Read the full story on LATimes.com

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