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Tue Nov 20, 2012, 07:30 PM


"Border Patrol Must Stop Hiding the Truth About Its Uses of Force"

Border Patrol agents work in dangerous situations which can lead to tragic consequences like the shooting death and wounding of agents in Arizona this week. There is no justification for such violence targeting law enforcement officers. Yet there is also a crisis regarding use-of-force by Customs and Border Protection that is severely damaging the agency’s integrity (CBP is the Border Patrol’s parent and includes officers who work at ports of entry). The many recorded incidents of CBP fatalities and abuses demand a comprehensive, independent investigation of CBP policies and practices, as requested by members of Congress, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. A permanent, arm’s-length oversight commission for CBP must also be created.

It’s not every day that the President of Mexico implies that an American law enforcement agent committed criminal homicide. This past weekend, the Wall Street Journal asked “how many Americans have heard of Guillermo Arévalo Pedroza? He was killed in September by a bullet fired from a U.S. Border Patrol boat while picnicking with his wife and two young girls on the south side of the Rio Grande, near Laredo, Texas. ‘Nothing happened in the legal institutions of this country,’ Mexican President Calderón says with evident restraint, noting that another 14 Mexicans have been killed in roughly similar ways this year alone. ‘This father was not trying to cross the border, he was trying to pass a good day with his kids.’”

The Border Patrol agents claimed rocks were being thrown at them from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, although “a video posted online by a Nuevo Laredo news organization showed the shooting, but didn’t show any rock throwing.” Reports from Laredo are that Mr. Arévalo died in the arms of his 9-year-old daughter. Disputed facts aside, a cross-border shooting seems an inappropriate and unnecessary escalation of force.

Fatal Border Patrol shootings have occurred with dismaying frequency; others reported extensively include Juan Pablo Pérez Santillán (near Brownsville, Texas on July 7, 2012); U.S. citizen Carlos Lamadrid, 19, shot in the back three times while allegedly fleeing to Mexico (near Douglas, Arizona on March 21, 2011); and 15-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández Guereca (near El Paso, Texas on June 7, 2010).


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