Yet another brutal death occurred over the weekend at the U.S.-Mexico border. The death occurred when two United States Border Patrol agents fired lethal shots across the border on Saturday morning near Brownsville, Texas, CNN reports.
The shots reportedly killed a Mexican citizen, Mexico’s foreign ministry has stated. Neither U.S. or Mexican officials have released any further details into the violent encounter over the weekend but Mexico’s foreign ministry has condemned the overexertion of lethal force at the border over the years in the wake of this new tragedy. Reuters quotes a representative:
The Mexican government has repeatedly expressed that the disproportionate use of lethal force in the exercising of immigration control functions is unacceptable under any circumstance.
Conversely, agents in the United States have remained reticent to link the border shooting on Saturday to an admitted patient at a Matamoros hospital in Mexico over the weekend.
Tensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have remained high for many years now. In the summer of 2010, a Mexican teenager was shot in the head at the El Paso border. The Border Patrol agent responsible for killing the young man was put on a mere administrative leave for the use of brutality, when all signs pointed to an outright and unnecessary murder.
Just a few months before this young man was shot and killed, a migrant worker living in San Diego was brutally beaten and tasered at the border. Footage of the brutality shows that the man, Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, was beaten by more than a dozen border patrol officers, although he was alone, defenseless, and held on the ground pleading for help for minutes on end. Hernandez Rojas died in critical condition in the hospital.
Here’s a video by Presente.org that shows some of the disturbing footage of the border patrol’s brutality.
An April Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times points out that the U.S. Border Patrol has been growing increasingly over the last five years, now boasting double the agents it had in 2007. There are now 21,000 agents who have been quickly trained and put into the field. Their training and protocol are also kept under tight wraps. The LA Times op-ed states:
By policy, border officials do not make their use-of-force protocol public. When they can fire a weapon and why is kept secret. With insufficient training and little public oversight, perhaps it’s no surprise that since May 2010, there have been at least eight documented cases of extreme use of force against unarmed and non-combative migrants resulting in death.
U.S. authorities have also blamed Mexico for brutalities at the border. On Monday, U.S. authorities revealed the names of four Mexican men associated with the shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent a year and a half ago in a gun-smuggling operation entitled Fast and Furious (quite the name for a covert mission which was, in theory, meant to stop more brutality via firearms. Who exactly is fast and who is furious?)
These debates from both sides of the border leave us with the question: is U.S. Border Patrol brutality an effective way to build a positive and plausible relationship between citizens? Does it make anyone safer? The answer is a resounding no. Even one death at the border should be met with a heavy heart.
To conclude with the words of John Carlos Frey, a documentary filmmaker speaking on the issue:
The violence against Hernandez and others, and the lack of any accountability in the wake of this violence, point to a disturbing trend. There are 21,000 Border Patrol agents who are trained to use deadly weapons. And without proper oversight and open investigations, the number of migrant killings and incidents of extreme and unwarranted violence continue to rise.
Photo Credit: Bill Morrow
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