It’s Time to Question Border Patrol Use of Deadly Force

PRINTEMAILBy Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice

On October 10, a US Border Patrol agent shot through the border fence into an urban neighborhood in the Mexican city of Nogales and shot to death a 16 year-old Mexican citizen. The Border Patrol has claimed that the boy was “throwing rocks” and that the officer “feared for his life.” On Oct. 18, I crossed the border into Nogales and asked a resident to lead me to the site of the youth’s death. The man who took me there told me that the boy was shot nine times and showed me the bullet pocked wall of the building where he died.

I stood on the rose petal covered site where the young boy spent the last moments of his life. I looked across the two lane street and parking lane to the 30 foot high embankment topped by the 20 foot high metal border fence. I thought, “How could a boy throw a rock that height and distance and have the rock be a threat to a US Border Patrol agent close enough to the fence to see him?” The answer, of course, is that he couldn’t. I doubt I could clear the fence with a baseball, but even if I could, it would sail well beyond the fence before touching ground. (I’d have to use a baseball because there were no rocks anywhere within sight.) I have no doubt that there are places where Border Patrol agents could be hit by a rock thrown across the border, but the spot I stood that morning in Nogales is not one of them.

My dentist, who was the reason for my Nogales trip, said he knows the parents of the boy who was killed. I gave him the contact information for Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, the Southern Arizona immigrant rights group that I volunteer with in my free time. (www.DerechosHumanosAZ.net) While standing on the spot where José Antonio Elena Rodríguez bled to death from multiple wounds, I could clearly see a set of cameras posted on the US fence and pointed directly at me. I can only conclude that the US government has a videotape of the deadly incident which should be released.

There have been far too many cases of US Border Patrol agents killing Mexicans and US citizens on both sides of the border. Just recently a Border Patrol agent was killed when he and other US agents got into a deadly firefight with each other on a dark night in rugged territory where they were investigating a tripped sensor which could have been tripped by a person or an animal. The deaths are the result of Border Patrol “rules of engagement” that allow agents to fire their weapons in too many circumstances where deadly force is not necessary. Shooting across the border at an alleged rock throwing child is certainly one of those times when the agent has a host of response choices that fall short of the use of deadly force.

It is time to say “no more” to US law enforcement initiated border killings. This must stop with the death of Jose Antonio. No more can we allow these deaths to be swept under the rug without serious investigation and without holding the killers accountable for their actions. It is a serious international incident for a country’s uniformed officers to fire into another country. It is even more serious when that violation of international law results in the death of citizens of that country. Turkey and Syria are on the verge of war right now due to just that kind of incident. While no one expects that Mexico will retaliate militarily, it is that serious of an incident. We have to demand that our public officials conduct a full, independent and transparent investigation of Rodriguez’ killing and a top-to-bottom review of Border Patrol policies regarding use of deadly force.

My day job is with the Alliance for Global Justice, a national Latin America solidarity and human rights organization. AfGJ asks you to send this short article and the pictures to your elected representatives and to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

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Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528