San Diego

Congressional Leaders Ask for Answers in Teacher’s Aide Drug Case

Congressional Leaders Request Review Of DHS Procedures

garrett anthony clifton

Two members of San Diego's congressional delegation sent a letter Tuesday to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, urging the agency to implement new rules after an NBC7 Investigates series about a teacher's aide border arrest.

Garrett Anthony Clifton, a San Diego Unified special education aide, continued working in the classroom nearly a year after he was arrested at the border with more than $500,000 worth of cocaine and methamphetamine in his possession.

NBC 7 Investigates learned there were no federal laws mandating school notifications of federal arrests. In Clifton's case, the federal government never notified the school district of the charges against him.

The former teacher's aide was sentenced to 37 months on Oct. 10, after telling the federal court he thought the drugs in his car were just marijuana. Before that, he attended nearly a dozen court appearances, and he pleaded guilty to importation of meth and cocaine on July 25, all while maintaining employment with the San Diego Unified School District.

Read more about the story here. Clifton could not be reached for comment about this latest update.

U.S. Reps. Scott Peters and Susan Davis, in a letter dated Nov. 25, asked Secretary Johnson whether the Department of Homeland Security, in failing to notify the school district, was following its own internal procedures after the arrest of an educator for drug, sexual or violent crimes.

"We strongy urge the Department of Homeland Security to implement reciprocal rules compelling law enforcement agents to comply with state laws designed to protect children from sexual and narcotic criminals," their letter states. "We also call on the Department of Homeland Security to implement rules and regulations directing DHS law enforcement agents to notify school districts and other childcare facilities when their employees have been arrested and convicted of crimes that may endanger children."

The Department of Homeland Security could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but in response to the original story sent the following statement:

“In criminal cases where a defendant is found to have regular contact with children, a variety of factors impact Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) decision as to whether notification of the subject’s employer or other associated parties is warranted or appropriate. Factors include: is there evidence the defendant has previously harmed children; are there indications the defendant is engaged in ongoing abuse of children; and finally, does the subject appear to pose an imminent threat to the safety of the children with whom he or she interacts. HSI is reviewing the matter to determine if appropriate procedures were followed."

Read the letter from Peters and Davis here.

Davis is still exploring legislative options.

"We understand that a legislative fix is possible," said her press secretary.

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